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?