Deepening Formation

The Kingdom of God Is Among Us

Religious congregations have their own unique symbols to express their charism. In the congregation to which I belong, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we wear a silver cross which we receive at our first profession of vows. On this cross is etched the Latin phrase, “Ecce Regnum Dei, intra vos est”; that is, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” The Cross and the Kingdom of God are intimately linked. In a gesture of reverence, we kiss our profession cross each morning. It is a sign that we are committed daily to taking up our own cross and to extending the Kingdom of God’s love through our congregation’s apostolate to families.

A nun holding a silver cross pendant

The Kingdom Is Present

“The Kingdom of God is not simply something we await at the end of time. The Kingdom is already present, if not in its fullness: ‘The Kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into Him,’ until its fulfillment when he comes again in glory” (The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church, no. 42). The Kingdom of God was revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. The central theme of his teaching was that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God has come through Christ’s Death and Resurrection. It remains in our midst through the Eucharist, but it has not yet come in its fullness, which leads us to pray “Thy Kingdom come.”

What is our role in spreading the Kingdom of God? Jesus clearly identified those who would inhabit the Kingdom: the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure of heart, and the poor in spirit. Living the beatitudes is a powerful way to participate in God’s Kingdom.

a priest and a sister hugging

A Priceless Gift

Jesus alluded to the pricelessness of the Kingdom in parables: the hidden treasure in a field and the pearl of great price. He described the need for being prepared for the coming of the Kingdom in the parables of the sower, the mustard seed, and the ten virgins. In the parable of the wedding feast, many declined the king’s invitation. The Kingdom won’t be forced on anyone: our part is to accept his invitation. However, as Jesus hung on the Cross, the “good thief” asked Jesus to remember him in his Kingdom. It was not too late for the thief to “steal” heaven, nor is it ever too late for us.

Perhaps we may not feel particularly blessed as we deal with personal and familial illness, food and housing insecurities, addictions, prejudice and marginalization, turmoil in our families, and concern about our children’s lifestyles and life choices. We might not understand what is happening to us or why. It is often in our brokenness that we can identify more fully with Christ.

“At the time He was betrayed and entered willingly into His Passion, He took the bread and giving thanks, broke it . . .” (Eucharistic Prayer, II). I, too, know what it is like to be broken. Two years ago, I experienced a medical incident that hospitalized me for five weeks, followed by 12 weeks in a secular tertiary care facility. Because of the COVID pandemic, I had no access to visitors, including a priest, and no opportunity to receive the sacraments.

After four months, I was able to continue my rehabilitation at my congregation’s infirmary. On my first morning there, I finally received the Eucharist. I can’t describe the joy I felt looking at the Sacred Host cupped in my left hand. I understood at that moment, albeit in a limited way, the immense love Jesus had for me. He allowed himself to be broken on Calvary for me, and he continued journeying with me through his Eucharistic Presence.

silver cross on Bible

Look to the Cross

Where do we begin in working towards the fulfillment of the Kingdom? I look to the Cross. In particular, I reflect on these final words of Jesus:

“I thirst.” We all thirst for love, compassion, and understanding. Can I look past my own needs and see the needs of others?

“Father, forgive them.” Do I hold on to anger? I need to not only forgive others but also forgive myself. I will have peace in my life when I can forgive.

Throughout his life, Pope St. John Paul II expressed his amazement and gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist, Jesus’ Real Presence which assures us we never carry our cross alone. In 2003, he wrote: “It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer’ how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 25) We do not journey alone to the Kingdom. Christ journeys with us.

Reflection Question:

The Eucharist is the Church’s treasure. It satisfies our deepest yearnings and encompasses the whole person: a person’s thoughts, motivations, emotions, desires, moral decisions, and behaviors. What are some obstacles in my journey toward the Kingdom?

Action Point:

“The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us. It is brought near in the Word Incarnate, it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ’s Death and Resurrection. The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst” (CCC, 2816). In gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist, attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday or spend some quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament at the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday night and keep watch with Jesus. On Good Friday, particularly between noon and 3:00 in the afternoon, disconnect from social media and spend some time in silence and prayer.

Prayer of Unknowing by Thomas Merton

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

– Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, page 79