The Kingdom of God’s loving presence

An anthropologist studying the social behavior of the children of an African tribe proposed a game. He put a fruit basket underneath a tree and said whoever reached the basket first could have all the fruit.

When he said, “Go,” the children joined hands and reaching the basket, sat down in a big circle and shared the fruits. The anthropologist asked why they did not try to get the prize for themselves. They replied, “Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

As Christians we are all members of one body that is Christ on earth. True, we are still growing and becoming that part of Christ, but we must daily realize our role in making that Kingdom come. How can any one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says about the South African concept of ubuntu: “[It] means my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in theirs. We belong in a bundle of life.” Simply, I am because we are. 

We pray most frequently, “Thy Kingdom come.” How do we understand that Kingdom? How does it work? In God’s Kingdom, surely, all will be love and sharing. God’s longing to love us and touch us is reflected in the lives of special saints. 

St Phillip Neri begged for the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the eve of Pentecost, in the catacomb of San Sebastiano. A small ball of fire descended, entered his mouth and went to his heart. Phillip experienced such an intense love that he fell to the ground in ecstasy crying, “Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more.”

God, in his great love for us, sent Jesus to unravel the mystery. 1 John 3:2 tells us, “We are already God’s children … when he appears we shall be like Him.” Jesus has appeared and we are invited to be part of that Kingdom daily.

Jesus tell us, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21). The coming of that Kingdom cannot be observed (17:21). People will not see it and say, “Here it is”. But Jesus explains what the Kingdom of God is like in successive parables in Matthew 13.

The first is the mustard seed, a tiny seed, but it will grow into a tree so that birds can build a nest in it. The Kingdom is like yeast which a woman puts into a measure of flour until all of it is leavened.

These parables tell us how the Kingdom will grow in us, and in turn, how we will grow in community until all of us share that common love that makes up the recognizable body of Christ on earth. We cannot be happy if everyone else is sad.

God’s love for us is so simple. Remember what it was like to play with your parents? Rolling on the floor, tickling each other, that brought you so close! That is how God loves us. That is why God sent Jesus to share experiences with us - so we can see the Father’s love and touch that love!

The Kingdom is around us. We can touch it, and God can touch us. Thanks be to our Brother Jesus who exemplifies what the Kingdom is like. Jesus is God’s loving presence with us. Ubuntu. We are because He is.

(568 words)

By Ken Rolheiser