The Kingdom of God Is At Hand

I have a really good spiritual director, who quietly takes in my words, body language, eye movement and then responds appropriately. She reads people and situations quickly and accurately.

Being in a conversation with those who are glancing at their cell phone every other second sends an important message to us: they are not giving full attention to the conversation and the phone is more important than the conversation. Even worse, the phone is more important than we are.

This situation usually draws a rather negative response from me.  I might roll my eyes, stop the conversation, or even walk away from the phone bound person. Interactions and responses are part of our everyday living. Often they are inconsequential enough.

sent1Sometimes, however, interaction and response have long lasting consequences. This Sunday’s gospel is about Jesus’ disciples reading people and responses. The interaction-response has long-lasting and life-changing consequences.

When Jesus sends disciples forth as “laborers for his harvest,” he predicts two responses to their presence. Either disciples will be welcomed and will be able to minister fruitfully, or they will be rejected and their ministry becomes judgment against the unwelcoming town. In either case, however, the “kingdom of God is at hand.” In either case, the acceptance or rejection of the disciples makes clear that the “kingdom of God” is not dependent upon any one response, but upon God’s gracious gift of Presence. How so? Whether accepted or rejected, disciples “harvest” the “kingdom of God” by their very presence, by their very proclamation of Jesus’ name, by their very fidelity to Jesus’ mission. [Living p;
Liturgy 2013]

No wonder disciples rejoice! Their rejoicing is an acknowledgment that God is present and working through them. The “kingdom of God” is present in the very persons of those who take up Jesus’ invitation to be laborers in bringing about an abundant harvest.

The abundance of the harvest is guaranteed in two ways. If Jesus’ disciples are not welcomed, they are not to quit the journey but continue it. Part of the ministry of laborer-disciples is the very “going”—the disciples’ faithfulness to Jesus’ sending them forth to proclaim that the “kingdom of God is at hand.”While response to Gospel proclamation is obviously important, there can be no response at all unless disciples go forth on the journey, proclaim the Gospel faithfully, and rely on God’s gift of divine Presence through them. We must respond to God’s gift of Presence to us before we can call forth response from others. This divine Presence is the source of disciples’ rejoicing.

The establishment of God’s reign is already an in-breaking of the final glory that will be ours—our “names are [already] written in heaven.” References to the abundance of the end times are captured in the “harvest” metaphor Jesus uses. Jesus looks at the harvest and sees abundance, fulfillment. Some of this abundance and fulfillment is surely realized in our own taking up of Jesus’ mission to bring peace, to heal, and to dispel evil. The challenge of the gospel is that we don’t get so lost in doing Jesus’ mission that we forget being faithful disciples is in itself already an in-breaking of God’s kingdom. Living the paschal mystery means that we let go of even the responses others might give to our Gospel living and surrender ourselves to be laborers for the harvest of peace and Presence.