The Here and There of the Kingdom Among Us, 32nd Thursday (I), November 16, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland (and St. Gertrude the Great)
November 16, 2017
Wis 7:22-8:1, Ps 119, Lk 17:20-25

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • The Pharisees in today’s Gospel asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. They were doubtless asking this within messianic expectations, that the kingdom of God would erupt by building the type of momentum to fulfill Jewish hopes in evicting the Romans from Israel and reestablishing the Davidic throne. In the question, they were probably egging Jesus on to see whether he thought he was the Messiah and what his future plans might be. But Jesus, as he is wont to do, transcended the question. He said that the inauguration of the Kingdom wouldn’t be a spectacle to be observed. There won’t be trumpets sounding. There won’t be heralds indicating that the kingdom is “here” or “there.” Rather, Jesus says, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
  • This means, first, that the Kingdom had already come because the King was present. The Kingdom is where the King is and Jesus was already present. Second, the Kingdom had already come because people had already embraced it, entered it and were living in it because they were living with the King. There’s a couplet in the Our Father in which we pray first “Thy kingdom come!” and then repeat it in other words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is done, whenever one begins to live in relationship with God and his kingdom. Jesus reveals to us various other qualities about his kingdom and the conditions for entering it and living in it. He says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are “poor in spirit,” to those who treasure God more than all the treasures of the world. He says that it belongs to those who convert and become like little children, who trust in God and accept it as a gift. He says that the kingdom is like a wedding banquet full of joy and those who live in the kingdom are those who are profoundly and serenely joyful. He says the kingdom grows like a mustard seed or yeast, imperceptible to people on the outside but the growth is real. Third, they and we should look for the kingdom and the King not just “among” us on the outside, but the Greek preposition can also mean “within.” We should seek to find the King and the Kingdom in ordinary life, in the gentle whisper, rather than in the earthquakes, hurricanes, and firestorms.
  • Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, said very powerfully back in 2000 in a talk to catechists from around the world, “The kingdom of God … is ‘not a thing.’ The Kingdom of God is God. The Kingdom of God means: God exists. God is alive. God is present and acts in the world, in our – in my life. God is not a faraway ‘ultimate cause,’ God is not the ‘great architect’ of deism, who created the machine of the world and is no longer part of it – on the contrary: God is the most present and decisive reality in each and every act of my life, in each and every moment of history.” The kingdom has come to a person when God is truly God of each and every act of one’s life.
  • Once we’re living in the kingdom in this way, all of life begins to change. We become more and more a reflection of the King we’re serving. In today’s first reading, we hear “Wisdom” described and all of these predicates can be said of the God-man who incarnates wisdom and the way the Holy Spirit, who is likewise wisdom, seeks to fill us with the gift of wisdom. When we’re living in the kingdom, we become increasingly:
    • Intelligent, capable literally of “reading between the lines of” situations and finding God and his kingdom;
    • Holy, meaning cut off from the profane, from earthly kingdoms, and “heavy” (qadosh) with God’s way of looking at things;
    • Unique, there’s nothing like God’s kingdom and nothing we wouldn’t trade for it;
    • Manifold, expressing itself in so many ways in our life;
    • Subtle, showing itself in even the most ordinary and hidden of ways and making us capable of acting with humility;
    • Agile, coming to us numerous directions and helping us get beyond obstacles;
    • Clear, filling us with light and the clarity that comes from God’s simplicity;
    • Unstained, unalloyed with mixed motives, but desiring to live blamelessly;
    • Certain, giving us a great security even in the midst of earthly uncertainty;
    • Not baneful, helping us not to become thorns in others sides but helpers;
    • Loving the good, because we see it and desire it;
    • Keen, because we’re eager to have others liv by God’s wisdom;
    • Unhampered, because we’re not carrying around the weight of our sins and earthly desires;
    • Beneficent, because God’s wisdom makes us see the charity others need and gives us the desire to do it, knowing wisely that it’s through giving in this way that we will be happy;
    • Kindly, behaving it in a way in which someone feels loved and sees the beauty of goodness;
    • Firm, because we are strengthened by the truth;
    • Secure, living in such a way that people can depend on us and build their lives on us;
    • Tranquil, because things are in order and we’re at peace;
    • All-powerful, because we wisely recognize that we can’t do anything on our own but can do all things in Him who strengthens us;
    • All-seeing, because even when things remain mysterious, we look at them with the eyes of faith and can see Christ in each circumstance;
    • Pervading all spirits, because God’s kingdom is wherever his kingdom is, wherever his Spirit is and is received;
  • When we live in this way, we become like the “aura” of God, a “pure effusion” of his glory, a “refulgence” of his light, a “spotless mirror” of his power, an “imagine of his goodness,” and “fairer than the sun.”
  • Two people who showed us how to live in this way in the kingdom are Saints Gertrude the Great and Saint Margaret of Scotland, whom the Church celebrates today. St. Gertrude was brought to the Monastery at a very early age, either for her education or because she was orphaned. She would spend the rest of her life there. She was an extraordinary student, who learned everything that she could in the classical formation of the day, throwing herself into profane subjects and to literature, music, song and art. She was surrounded by holy nuns, but wasn’t profiting. After 20 years of study and of sharing in their liturgical prayer, she began to recognize she had been giving herself over much of the time to vanities. In 1280, when she was in her mid-20s, the Lord illumined her to see that she was basically living in a worldly way but that Jesus would take her by the hand to lead her to holiness. And from that point forward, she so invested the gift of the Lord’s grace that she continues to bear fruit seven-plus centuries later. Her conversion involved a different type of study, passing from profane humanistic studies to the study of theology and of divine wisdom, and a different type of obedience, from negligence to intense mystical prayer coupled to a zeal for the salvation of all. She wrote in her Spiritual Exercises something that pointed to how, post-conversion, she wanted to use the gifts God had given her: “I have so little profited from your graces that I cannot resolve to believe that they were lavished upon me solely for my own use, since no one can thwart your eternal wisdom. Therefore, O Giver of every good thing who has freely lavished upon me gifts so undeserved, in order that, in reading this, the heart of at least one of your friends may be moved at the thought that zeal for souls has induced you to leave such a priceless gem for so long in the abominable mud of my heart.” Pope Benedict, when he gave a Catecheses on her life (October 6, 2010) said, “St Gertrude’s life lives on as a lesson of Christian life, of an upright path, and shows us that the heart of a happy life, of a true life, is friendship with the Lord Jesus. … This friendship is learned in love for Sacred Scripture, in love for the Liturgy, in profound faith, in love for Mary, so as to be ever more truly acquainted with God himself and hence with true happiness, which is the goal of our life.”
  • St. Margaret Queen of Scotland had a similar passion to live in the Lord’s kingdom and use her earthly royalty to help others to experience that same kingdom. The daughter of a Hungarian Princess and Anglo-Saxon Prince, she and her family fled from William the Conquerer and were shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland, where Scottish King Malcolm befriended them and was captivated by Margaret, whom he married in 1070. She helped him become virtuous and was allowed by him, essentially, to become interior minister of the kingdom. She proved arts and education, reformed the country and the clergy religiously through synods she promoted and founded many Churches and monasteries. She had eight kids and supervised their religious instruction so that they would come to know God and his wisdom. Her love for Jesus in the Eucharist helped her to grow in love and care for those he died for, and on her way home from Mass would often wash the feet of six poor persons and give them alms. She never refused beggars or sat down to eat without first feeding orphans and poor adults. She died 975 years ago today. She lived truly as a member of the King of King’s royal family and exercised her munus regendi according to his wisdom.
  • Today as we come to Mass on their feast days, like them not to reject but to welcome the King within us and we ask for the grace always to remain aware of him and consciously in communion with him so that we will always dwell in his kingdom. We also come to pray that we and others might enter into the eternal fulfillment of that kingdom. St. Gertude is famous for her prayer for the holy souls in Purgatory, for whom the Church prays with particular insistence in the month of November. Like what Jesus revealed to St. Faustina in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, St. Gertrude’s prayer, inspired by the same Lord, is similarly Eucharistic. “Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.” As we do so, we remember clearly: The Kingdom of God and the King is at hand!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 WIS 7:22B–8:1

In Wisdom is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly,
Firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion,
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.
For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.
For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
And passing into holy souls from age to age,
she produces friends of God and prophets.
For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.
For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom.
Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily
and governs all things well.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:89, 90, 91, 130, 135, 175

R. (89a) Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Your word, O LORD, endures forever;
it is firm as the heavens.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Through all generations your truth endures;
you have established the earth, and it stands firm.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
According to your ordinances they still stand firm:
all things serve you.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Let my soul live to praise you,
and may your ordinances help me.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.

Alleluia JN 15:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord:
whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”