When we are open to the possibility, the Scriptures speak to us in the setting of what is going on in our life when we read or hear them, as our life really is, and not as we wish it were or as others tell us it should be. Often this involves our laying aside the way we have always looked at the stories and what they have always meant, and letting the Spirit give us insight to what they are saying to us in the setting of our own everyday life here and now.
In today’s Gospel Story Jesus sends his disciples out to tell the people “The Kingdom of God is at hand”. In the past few weeks some things have happened in my life that have enabled me to be aware that Jesus’ words are really happening now, to see and be part of the Kingdom happening all around me.
As some of you may know, while I was in Florida a few weeks ago I had a “cardiac event” that required some immediate action. My friend, whom I was staying with, changed all his plans to make sure I got the help I needed. The hospital staff as a whole provided me not only with TLC, but with what is, for an independent guy like me, much more effective, ALC (Aggressive Loving Care). My friend’s neighbors, whom I did not know all that well, were wonderful. The folks where I live, staff and residents, were enthusiastically kind, and it was clear that they really cared.
Last week my sister, a Hawthorne Dominican nursing sister, died after a long illness. Almost immediately the residents and staff where I live reached out to show their kindness and caring, and continue to do so even now. Since the eight hour drive to her convent was a bit long for me to drive myself, two friends offered to drive me. While stopping at a hotel on the way I tripped and had a nasty fall, doing some damage to myself, especially to my pride. My friends driving me really showed a lot of much appreciated ALC for the rest of our time together.
When we got to my sister’s convent, the community of nuns welcomed us with a joy and kindness that goes beyond description. While they in their own way were both celebrating and mourning my sister, every one of them cared for me and my friends too. Their combination of joy and sorrow was obvious in their ceremonies and liturgies. When we left to return to Cleveland, all of the nuns gathered to see us off, and their spirit of joy and caring was absolutely wonderful. For us it was a beautiful love filled week.
My friends’ ALC continued on the drive back, as it does now. Also, I have been hearing from folks I haven’t heard from in a long time. Even this morning I got a very supportive and comforting message from a former Army Chaplain that really means a lot.
I think what I am trying to say is Jesus meant it when he said “The Kingdom of God is at hand”, because it really is. The Kingdom is ordinary folks like you and me, doing ordinary things, not necessarily with religious goals, thoughts, or terminology. Maybe religious ideas and terminology are overrated and divisive. Pope Francis says “reality is more important than ideas”. It’s easy to become polarized over terms and ideas. To oversimplify, there is orthodoxy vs orthopraxis debate: orthodoxy is believing the right things and using the right words, while orthopraxis is doing what is right. To me it is more important to do what is right, than to get wrapped up in how we describe what we do. We have to be careful, because we really don’t know other folks’ story, motive, or conscience. When we ourselves experience the Kingdom happening, it might encourage us to do our part to make it happen for others.
God’s Kingdom involves us accepting other people as they/we are. To paraphrase Pope Benedict, every one of us is the consequence of a thought in the mind of God, every one of is important, every one of us is necessary, none of us is an accident. Each of us reflects God in a way that no one else can. This is especially important these days with all the judging and blaming folks whose lifestyle or self-identification bother some people. Francis calls us to accompany each other, while some are demanding that we accuse, judge, and condemn each other. It seems their idea of religious freedom gives them the right to impose their views on the rest of us and on the whole population. We cannot demand that others live by our version of God. Instead, we might stand in awe at the myriad ways God shows us who God is. Perhaps we might learn to listen and observe, and ask the Spirit’s help to discern what God is saying, rather than tell God what we want God to say. The more we are aware of the myriad forms of creation, the more insight we have to the Creator. The Webb telescope offers us a lot to ponder.
When we are open to the Spirit, She gives us insight how to live as Jesus’ disciples in our own here and now, with whomever is in our life. This something worth asking for. Just sayin . . .