Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, November 12, 2020, USCCB Daily Bible Readings, Luke 17:20-25
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.
Then he said to his disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. (NRSV)
The Kingdom of God is Already Now and Not Yet. Jesus ushered in the God’s Kingdom on this earth. But sadly, the Pharisees did not recognize this wandering rabbi, Jesus, was God’s only Son come to bring in God’s Kingdom with abundant love. They did not recognize that their close scrutiny or observation of Jesus would not be enough to convince them of what God was doing through His only Son.
The Kingdom of God wasn’t announced with thousands of soldiers marching in Rome or parading down main street in Jerusalem. But God’s Kingdom came:
when a Baby was born to Mary and Joseph in a cattle stall in Bethlehem;
when the 12 year old Jesus taught the elders in the temple and they were amazed;
when Jesus saved the wedding celebration by changing water into wine and only His mother and the stewards knew;
when Jesus made mud and placed it gently on the eyes of the man born blind to restore his sight;
when Jesus straightened the back of a woman hunched over for years;
when Jesus taught that He was the way, the truth and the life;
when Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well living water gushing up to eternal life;
when Jesus freely gave up His life on a cross on a hill for the salvation of the whole world;
when Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave very early on the third day defeating the powers of sin and death;
and when Jesus ascended to His Father in heaven as His disciples gazed up into the heavens where He now lives and reigns forever and ever.
In unannounced ways Jesus brought to this planet the loving and merciful reign of God. This Kingdom is still with us today in Word and Sacrament, in bible study and fellowship, in service and sacrifice for others and wherever God’s love is shared as the Holy Spirit works freely and abundantly in the hearts of so many around the globe.
Jesus didn’t need the press to hail His coming. He didn’t need tv cameras or zoom technology or the new Apple chip to usher in God’s rule of love for all of creation. As Jesus walked the roads of Palestine, entered into the humble homes of Jews and Gentiles, taught in the synagogue, worshipped in the Temple, reached out to the ill and outcast, heard the trumped up charges before chief priests, and stood firm against a Roman puppet in authority, He left the imprint of God’s Kingdom of love.
So the Kingdom of God is Already Now, but Not Yet. The Pharisees believed that one day in the future God’s Kingdom would come with the promised Messiah who will restore David’s kingdom on earth.
Jesus told His disciples that His return to earth as the Son of Man would be as obvious as lightning flashing in the sky. When Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, He will make good on His promise to take all the faithful to live with Him forevermore. There will be no more suffering and no more sin, but only the peace, joy, praise and thanksgiving in the place Christ has prepared for all who believe in Him.
So we live in this Christian tension between the Already Now and the Not Yet. God’s loving rule will never leave our side. His rule will always be among us so that we will not lose hope in the midst of temptations, challenges, and sin in this life.
I wonder why the US Conference of Catholic Bishops chose this passage from Luke 17 about the Kingdom of God for the day when Catholics remember Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr. What’s the connection? I must admit I never heard of this saint until a couple of days ago.
St. Josaphat was a 17th monk and bishop born in Lithuania. He and his parents were members of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In time St. Josaphat supported a movement to have these churches come under the authority of the Pope. For this kind of support, an angry “anti-Catholic” mob broke into his home and tortured him to his death.
I can only say that this saint believed that while on earth he enjoyed the blessings of living under the loving kingdom or rule of His Lord or why else would he be attracted to the ordained ministry and work so diligently for Christian unity.
And I can only think that as St. Josaphat saw that angry mob with weapons charging at his house to break in and do him harm, he felt reassured that Jesus would one day return to this earth and take him and all believers to that glorious Kingdom of God where death will be no more.
One of my favorite hymns I like to sing especially on the Day of Reformation is this one:
Have no fear little flock; have no fear little flock; for the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom. Have no fear little flock.
Thanks be to God!