The Kingdom of God is not a vision for later, but to be lived here and now
By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / July 7
Isaiah 66:10-14c; Psalm 66:1-3,4-5,6-7,16,20; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12,17-20
Recently I was present with several people meeting with state officials about a prison ministry program. Families of prisoners shared stories of their loneliness as a relative of someone in prison. They spoke of the shame and lack of understanding they experienced as their family member was away from them, locked in a world they did not know. It was difficult to hear the struggles they had to endure on their own because people they were around either did not know of the incarceration or did not share their feelings. What a lonely experience!
What was so marvelous about the gathering was the expression they shared with people they had come to know through the program of prison ministry. Family members of other inmates, through the program, are able to share the intense feelings with each other. What a difference it was for them in dealing with their pain and struggle.
The message of Jesus is radical. Truly living by these words gives us the courage to speak the words. We rely on the Spirit of God and the support of one another to do what Jesus did.
Jesus, in the Gospel today, understood the power of relationship. He sent the disciples to take the Good News of the Kingdom in twos. They were to rely totally on each other and the people they encountered: “I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” (Luke 10:4)
THE TIME IS NOW
Jesus is clear about the urgency of the Kingdom. It has arrived with His presence and message. The message Jesus gave with his words and life was that the Kingdom of God is here now. They were to live, as followers of Jesus, with this vision. It is not a vision simply for a later time; it is a new way of life now.
The disciples had experienced, in some way, this new vision and way of life. They had been captivated by the message of Jesus. But speaking and living this new way would bring them face to face with the old “wolves” — those who refused to accept the new way of living. They are told by Jesus to bring peace to those they encountered, but if the person is not of peace, “the peace will return to you.” (Luke 10: 8)
The message of Jesus is no less potent for us today who have committed ourselves to be His disciples. Through our baptism we are sent to bring the message of Jesus by our words and lives to the world. It is no small task.
The message of Jesus is radical. Truly living by these words gives us the courage to speak the words. We rely on the Spirit of God and the support of one another to do what Jesus did. As Pope Francis has said so well: “To be part of a Christian community is to belong to a group of believers who shun selfishness and give witness to God’s love by loving and caring for one another.”
One of the great deceptions of our lives as followers of Jesus is that we use the message of Jesus for our own benefit instead of allowing the message and life of Jesus to use us. It is a great temptation to prop our desires up with what we want the message to be. The great challenge of being a disciple is to name the wolves for what they are and bring the difficult message of Jesus to them.
We cannot do this alone. Jesus gives us His Spirit and one another. It is the gift of relationship and community.
SISTER RACHEL Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She has served as a teacher, campus minister, and pastoral associate in the Diocese of Peoria.