Good morning, everyone. Hope that you’ve had a very nice Fourth of July week, and for many it’s been an extended weekend, since we celebrate the 4th on Thursday. I know that I had a very blessed week on retreat down in the Big Sur at the Hermitage of the Camaldolese Monks. It was a very beautiful time, and I really brought to that retreat so many intentions from people here at this parish, really in a certain way brought all of your intentions to my time on retreat. So it is a really great time to just breathe in deep God’s presence to us through nature.
One thing that we really hear pressing in the Gospel today is Jesus announcing in another way the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God. Now, when we think of Jesus’s first public words, so to speak, that announced his ministry, he says the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the Good News. And Jesus now sends people out to announce the kingdom of God is at hand. I think it’s important for us to really focus on what is Jesus mean by the kingdom of God, because I think for many of us we have an almost tortured type of understanding of kingdom.
In fact, the Fourth of July was all about us breaking away from a kingdom – right? We looked at somehow the kingdom of England as being oppressive to the colonists, and for most of us I think we had this kind of love/hate relationship with kingdoms. We just look at them as being oppressive, or we may look at them in awe, and almost in a sense of glory. I’m always amazed that whenever there’s like a royal wedding how many people will tune in the middle of the night to watch it, right, because we’re kind of captivated by all the glamour that goes with that. There’s something about that, and even in the United Kingdom today, in England, there’s people who still are very supportive of the monarchy, even though the monarchy doesn’t have that much real power. There’s people who find pride in the king, the queen, and the whole idea of a monarch. Yet, for us we may look at a kingdom as being something that could be problematic.
So what is Jesus talking about – the kingdom of God? Many of us may take this understanding of kingdom of God to refer to heaven. That when we die and we enter into the Heavenly Gates we’re entering into God’s Kingdom. And while it is true to understand heaven in a kingdom sense, Jesus clearly was trying to announce that a kingdom was present in our midst. The kingdom of God is at hand: meaning you can touch it, you can grab it, you can become part of it. It’s tangible.
I think that as Jesus gives the orders – the marching orders if you will – to the 72, we can get an understanding of what the kingdom of God looks like here on Earth. Because, the kingdom of God only makes sense in light of who the king is. Just like our understanding of kingdom in general only makes sense in light as to who the actual leader is. If there’s an oppressive leader, then we’re not really a fan of the kingdom. If there’s a servant leader, we’ve become very proud of being part of that kingdom. And Jesus wants to show that the kingdom of God, with God as king, reveals a certain certitude, servitute, on the part of God, and it is embodied in the very life of Jesus who comes to serve, not to be served. His entire life was that of service.
So how does Jesus wants you to show to us that the kingdom of God is in our midst? He gives a point-by-point to the 72 that he sends out as to what they should do, how they should act, and their very activity brings about the kingdom of God.
Let’s unpack it just briefly. First off, Jesus sends off the 72 in pairs, meaning that there’s no room for a type of rugged individualism. They must go out in pairs, leaning on each other, if you will, for support. They must be fully dependent on the charity and the goodness of other people. They’re not to bring food with them, not to bring even a second tunic. In a certain sense they have to just be able to accept whatever is going to be given to them, fully dependent on the goodness of others. They’re not to move about from house to house. And what’s Jesus trying to get at? He’s basically trying to say it’s like it’s not about trying to find the better offer, the better deal, the better digs. To be content with what you have. They go about and where they do they announce peace, but not necessarily entering into certain types of deep dialogues with people, trying to convince people of some certain truths or trying to win an argument, but to be a means of peace.
We see that in all these things Jesus is trying to reveal to us that the kingdom of God is made real and present in our midst when we understand that we actually need other people. We don’t just need them; we need to respect them, not just for the sense of being nice, but by knowing that our means of understanding God’s presence in our midst comes through other people. That’s how the kingdom of God is established, with a radical awareness that we’re radically dependent on each other as a means of participating in the kingdom of God. No one builds the kingdom of God on their own – no one even builds the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is in our midst only when recognize that we radically need our brothers and sisters, our neighbors.
You know, I had a really – I just want to call it deep – conversation last night with my sister. One of her friends, and we were talking about how, if we look at in the Bay Area, I mean the gross inequality, right, and there’s just one billionaire amongst every 12,000 people in the Bay Area. That’s an amazing ratio to think about how much wealth is in this area, but yet we don’t have to go very far to see such extreme poverty. And it’s poverty that’s compounded by mental illness and drug addiction, and it’s all on the same block, right? And how can we make sense of how what Jesus is calling us to do to bring about the kingdom of God, when clearly there’s great inequality in our midst.
Only when are able to recognize that those of us who have are radically dependent upon those who-have-nots. Just as those who have not are radically depending on those who have. All of us have something to gain from our brother and sister, especially those among us who we think are least is among us who we feel have nothing to offer us. Those who may even feel to be an inconvenience, because it gets to the very heart that what we do to the least of our brother and sister we do to the King; we do to Jesus. The kingdom of God it’s not simply about creating a splendid, glorious manifestation of power. It’s about coming to a place of knowing that our lives are an imitation of the King who came to be a servant.
How are we given the strength to be a servant? Simply by coming to the Eucharist, because the King reveals himself to us again each time we come to Mass. But how does He reveal himself to us? In the vulnerability of the elements of bread and wine. In the vulnerability of the breaking of the hosts. In the vulnerability of the chalice. By uniting ourselves in communion with the King in His vulnerability we are able to become united to our brothers and sisters, or equally as vulnerable, because we ourselves share in their vulnerability.
This day we rejoice in our independence, only because it gives us the freedom to become servants. Not because it gives the freedom to become lords, but the freedom to become servants, because only then are we able to imitate the King who desires so much for the fullness of his kingdom to be revealed both here in this world and in the world to come.
May God bless you all.