I think it’s true to say that many of us are not comfortable with the word “kingdom,” which Jesus frequently mentions and which is a constant in our traditional prayers. We associate it with fairy tales or with far distant lands like Monaco or Siam, so different from our democratic form of government. It’s necessary for us to grasp its meaning, otherwise it’s a throwaway and a distraction.
I suggest that we understand it to mean unfailing awareness of the presence of God in our here & now lives — remaining conscious always, no matter where we are or what we are doing, that we “live and move and have our being,” as the liturgical prayer so nicely puts it, only because God creates us and sustains our existence from moment to moment by loving presence that is never withdrawn.
Kingdom behavior, then, is the basic lifestyle of the person who cultivates the enduring awareness of the presence of God in every situation of his or her life and lives life deliberately interacting with it. A lawyer acquaintance of mine wears one of those bracelets that read “What Would Jesus Do?” I happened to be present once when, on the opposite side of the huge table at which we were sitting in a State court office, he lifted his shirt sleeve in a tense and challenging moment, gazed at the familiar line, and, I assumed, submitted his judgment of the issue at hand to the judgment and wisdom of the Creator he knows is always with him.
That is living in the Kingdom of God on earth; that is the Kingdom of God partially realized in this messy, sinful world. It’s not about visions and secret messages from on high; it’s not about abandoning common sense or the processes of legitimate government or any other human instrument or agency. It’s about knowing that underlying all human activity is the presence of the Creator God, the Creative Spirit, and that we become more human, and work at our best, when we invite the ever-present power and love of God to infiltrate our minds and our hearts
On a much lighter note, I add this, which occurred only four days ago: I was in a doctor’s examination room awaiting his arrival. The attractive young nurse who was recording my stats told me that I was the 28th person they were seeing that day. I asked how they remained attentive, patient and pleasant in such an unrelenting routine. She didn’t have any idea that I was a priest as she answered sweetly, “I can tell you this: I do pray a lot.”
I like to think that that is what Jesus had partly in mind when, in another of his teachings, he urged us to give back to God what belongs to God – not giving back in the sense of losing or giving up, but giving back in the sense of reuniting.