Monthly Archives: July 2022

Our “Yes” to the Kingdom of God

When considering kingdoms, we tend to think of nations, countries or groups of people in a collective sense.  Yet, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, he replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21) 

The kingdom of God is not visible in the same way a worldly kingdom is with a king and his subjects located in a defined geographic area.  The kingdom of God is also different in that membership is not determined by residence or citizenship, but by individual choice.  The Individual chooses whether he or she wants to be a part of God’s kingdom.  God gives individuals complete freedom to choose or reject his kingdom.

Jesus had a lot to say about the kingdom of God and used the parables to explain what the kingdom is like.  He tells us the kingdom has great value, like a fine pearl or treasure, and we should be willing to give everything we have to attain it.  He says it can grow from the tiniest desire similar to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, into the largest of plants.  It can coexist with and overcome evil like good seed planted in a field where weeds may also spring up.  God’s kingdom, whether one individual or a few, can impact the world around it like a small amount of yeast impacts a large amount of dough.(Mt. 13:1-36)

Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again of water and spirit.  A spiritual rebirth is necessary. 

So, the kingdom of God is wherever there are individuals who accept God’s offer to dwell in them through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The Church, the successor to Jesus and the apostles, facilitates the growth of the kingdom of God through the sacraments and its many forms of outreach.    

Yet, the kingdom of God starts with individuals making a decision to accept God’s offer to dwell within them one person at a time.

Forty-five years ago, in response to a priest’s prayer at a healing mass, I turned over the sin in my life to Jesus Christ.  I met him in as real and personal a way as I can possibly describe.  When I started to wonder whether this really happened, another priest in praying over me later that evening confirmed it was true.   Over time I have tried to make Jesus the center of my life.  I am still capable of messing up, but I will never forget his immediate and loving willingness to take my sin.  

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”  (Rev. 3:20)

Do you experience the Kingdom of God?

No Law Against the Fruit of the Spirit

Is it possible to fully live out our Christian faith today without running afoul of some law or regulation?

Our culture appears to becoming more intolerant of Christians talking about their faith in the public square or the workplace.  Nativity scenes have been barred from public spaces, Christmas carols are no longer sung in schools, and talking about one’s faith with a co-worker can provoke a harassment lawsuit.

St. Paul describes a way to avoid these conflicts.  In his letter to the Galatians he talks about the importance of living by the Spirit.  He says that if we do, we will experience the fruit of the Spirit which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

He then declares, “Against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:23)

For example, in the workplace there is no law or employee handbook that is going to prohibit supporting a co-worker in Christian love; being joyful in our countenance; promoting peace where there is conflict; being patient, gentle and kind in our relationships with co-workers and customers; and fulfilling our work responsibilities with goodness and integrity.

I have a friend who owns a freight forwarding business with warehouses in Chicago and Minneapolis.  He makes it a point to meet regularly with all his employees.  He tells the following story of employees in Chicago working overtime to help employees in Minneapolis. 

Late one Friday night in Chicago, a truck arrived, carrying products to be delivered to customers in both Chicago and Minneapolis.  The truck had been loaded in a very random way with individual orders mixed up and paperwork not matching the orders.  An employee in Chicago, who had already put in a full day, could have just offloaded the items to be delivered in Chicago and sent the truck on its way.  Instead, he said, “Why don’t we unload the whole truck and reload it correctly for the guys in Minneapolis?”

It took two employees four hours, working into the wee hours of Saturday morning to identify, sort and reload a multitude of orders destined for Minneapolis.  As my friend observed, “This is a small story that could have gone unnoticed, but it is really huge because it reflects an attitude of the employees in Chicago who wanted to support the employees in Minneapolis who had just gone through a difficult time of changing warehouse locations.” 

The Chicago employees were exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in showing love, kindness, goodness and faithfulness to the employees in Minneapolis.  My friend, their employer, was pleased that they did.   

By exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, Christians can demonstrate a clear contrast to much of today’s culture, and will evangelize more powerfully with their conduct than they ever could with their words.

How do you exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in your workplace?

Angels – Reality or Myth?

Have you ever experienced the presence of an angel? 

A number of years ago, after being with some business colleagues at a dinner on the upper west side of Manhattan, I started back to my hotel.  Because of the lateness of the hour, there were no cabs readily available, so I started walking on Central Park West toward my hotel.  There was hardly anybody on the street and after walking a couple of blocks, I noticed a gang of five young men following about a block behind me. 

As I picked up my pace, so did they.  I began to get concerned.  If I started to run, there was no place to run.  All the shops and restaurants in the area were closed.  They got closer and closer, obviously intent on catching up with me.  Just then out of nowhere, a taxi came roaring up with the driver yelling at me to get in, which I did as he sped away.  On the way to the hotel he said nothing.  Upon arrival, I thanked him profusely and watched him drive away. 

Was he just a benevolent New York City taxi driver who happened along on Central Park West late that evening and came to my rescue?  Given the circumstances and the quickness with which he appeared, I have always believed he was one of God’s angels assigned to look after believers.

The Bible is full of references to angels in both the Old and New Testaments.  Psalm 91 says, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in your ways.”  Psalm 34 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”  An Angel held the arm of Abraham preventing the sacrifice of Isaac, wrestled with Jacob, and appeared to Moses in the burning bush. 

Angels appeared to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds in connection with the birth of Jesus.  Angels told all who came to Jesus’ tomb that he had been raised from the dead.  An angel freed Peter from prison, and assured Paul that he and all those on board his ship would be saved from a shipwreck the next day.  Finally, an angel described to John what the new heaven and new earth would look like at the end of the Book of Revelation.

Paul describes angels as “ministering spirits, sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” (Heb. 1:14)  In describing the preeminence of Christ, Paul declares,“For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible.” (Col. 1:16)  Angels are part of the invisible. 

The soul or inner person of an individual cannot be seen.  Yet, the actions of an individual reflect the nature of the soul; so too, with angels.  Though they cannot be seen, their actions can be manifested in the results of their protection and the messages they convey.  

Just as we embrace on faith the words and events of Jesus’ life, including his resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so too, should we embrace on faith the action of angels in our lives.