SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  2 JN 4-9; LK 17:26-37   ]

Taken out of context, it appears that the teaching of Jesus regarding the coming of God’s Kingdom is rather intimidating.  The impression we get is that the Kingdom of God will come in a most unpredictable and sudden manner, leaving us no time for preparation.  We may suffer the same fate as those who get a fatal heart attack or meet with a deadly accident.  Such tragic and unprepared death is something we hope will not happen to us.  So the day of the second coming of the Lord, when understood in this manner, will only instill fear, instead of evoking joy.

However, if we understand what Jesus is saying in the context of His answer to the Pharisees’ question regarding the time of the coming of God’s Kingdom, then it will be evident that today’s text is actually an elaboration of the answer that “the coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, ‘Look here! Look there!’ For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.”   In other words, instead of speculating on the second coming of Christ as the end of time, it is important to look at the present coming of the Lord. 

Such a perspective of the Lord’s constant coming into our lives can find support from today’s first reading when St John gives us the guiding principle of faith in the incarnation.  Indeed, he says it is the refusal to accept the incarnation, and therefore the first coming of Christ, the presence of the Kingdom of God, that results in fear of His second coming.  For in “refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”, “they are the Deceiver; they are the antichrist.”  Why is it so important that St John underscores the importance of having faith in the incarnation as a condition of having “the Father and the Son” with us?

The truth is that only faith in the Incarnation will enable us to recognize that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst.  For with the incarnation, the whole of history and the cosmos is suffused with the presence of God.  This explains why Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within your midst.”  If we are looking for the coming of God’s Kingdom, we need not look too far; neither do we look here or there but within ourselves.  The Kingdom is already experienced in our lives.  How?

Firstly, when we live from moment to moment, in the now.  This is implied when Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God would come just like in the days of Noah, when the people were “eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day when Noah went into the ark and the Flood came.”  It would also be the same as in the days of Lot when again, “people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.”  Clearly, it means that the Kingdom is present in ordinary situations and daily events.

This means that our happiness is found in ordinary events of life, not only in extraordinary and sensational situations.  We are called by Jesus to discover the joy of living and the joy of finding God in mundane activities, such as eating, working, studying, serving, praying, sleeping and spending time with our loved ones and friends.  Indeed, if we cannot find happiness in such activities, we can never find happiness anywhere.  Hence, if we are not happy where we are now, it is unlikely that we can ever be happy in another place or in another state of life.  Indeed, the Kingdom of God is found in such human activities since God, in the Incarnation, has chosen to experience life through our human life.  

With faith, we should not be too worried about our future.  All we need to do is to give ourselves totally to whatever situation we find ourselves in.  Indeed, the future is but the confirmation of all that we have lived for and how we have lived.  So, instead of waiting for the future, we must live as if this is our only life and find real happiness in it. 

Secondly, the Kingdom of God is experienced when we live a balanced life.  When we live our lives holistically, we will find life a joy, not a burden.  This means that there is a time to eat, work, sleep, pray and recreate.  When we are able to live a balanced life, we will find that the Kingdom is real in our lives.  It is an unbalanced lifestyle that makes our lives oppressive, aimless and a drudge.  Those who work and work only do not know what life is all about.  Similarly, those who only enjoy themselves are living an animalistic life.  Living a good life means to make time for everything.

Thirdly, the kingdom of God is encountered when we realize that although we are in the world, we do not belong to the world; or rather, the world does not belong to us.  In other words, we will experience God’s Kingdom when we live a life of detachment.  Hence, Jesus advised us that “when that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either.”  This is to say that we must be fully absorbed in what we are doing and what we already have, instead of clinging to our past.  By clinging to our past and living in nostalgic times, we are preventing ourselves from receiving the greater things that God wants to give to us.  By insisting on holding on to what we have and in not wanting to let go, we are resisting the unimaginable future that God has in store for us.  Hence, because of our attachment, we live in the past and cling to what is dead and static, since we are not open to adventure, change and growth.

Therefore, if we want to find happiness in life, we must learn to let go and be ready to embrace the future and the unpredictable.  When it is time for us to move to another place, another kind of ministry, another job or position in life, we must move on and not hang on to our old kingdom.  Moving out to a new situation, or ministry, or a new lifestyle is never easy, but when we are open to change, we will find our lives enriched.  Thus, we should be ready and be open to what God wants for us instead of clinging to our dreams and our preferences.  By not looking back like Lot’s wife, we will find that God has greater things in store for us.  We must have the faith of Lot that God is always leading us to greater heights and growth in life. 

In the same vein too, Jesus instructs us to take life in stride, to live from moment to moment.  We are called to act in such a manner so that we can remain unshaken by what is happening in our midst, such as when “on that night two will be in one bed; one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together; one will be taken, the other left.”  Of course, Jesus is not teaching us to be indifferent; rather He is teaching us to accept life as it is and as it will be.  Today, we see our friends and colleagues with us; tomorrow we may not see them anymore.  Today, you are here, one day, you too will be taken away to be somewhere else.

Finally, the Kingdom of God is present when we live a life of love and truth, as St John exhorts us.  In “living the life of truth” and loving one another, we are obeying the commandments of the Father.  Only a life of clear conscience and charity can give us true interior peace and joy.  By giving ourselves to each other in love and walking in truth and justice, we will find the Kingdom of God so real in our lives.  Indeed, Jesus cautioned us, “Remember Lot’s wife.  Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe.”  When we live according to our conscience, when we are clear that we have done our best in following God’s laws of love and truth, as the Psalmist prayed in the responsorial psalm, we will find life and joy.  

These, then, are the means by which the Kingdom of God is in our midst.  When we have experienced God’s Kingdom here and now, the second coming would be a natural process.  It would be a fulfillment and a perfection of what we are experiencing in this world.  Thus, it cannot be said that the second coming of Christ would be a surprise to us.  At any rate, we have nothing to fear, since such a Kingdom life is already given to us as a foretaste.  Indeed, when Jesus said, “Where the body is, there the eagles (or vultures) will be gathered together”, He is reminding us that like the eagles who are present wherever there is a carcass, so too, the Kingdom of God will come if we recognize its presence.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore