Reflection for September: Kingdom living

By Father Chris Thomas

Some time ago I was invited to meet a community of people, who met in the centre of the city I was in. I was taken to an underpass. It was noisy and dirty because of the motorway overhead. We arrived there late at night. It was in a fairly poor part of the city and there were unsavoury characters hanging around. I was a bit hesitant about walking into the underpass but the man who was with me pushed me forward. 

When I got used to the lighting, I saw people everywhere in small groups, either reading, or having read to them, the Scriptures. Some of them obviously lived on the streets and all were extremely poor. They were gathered by a young Pentecostal minister called Kevin. He had felt called, years earlier, to work with the poor and here he was leading these people into a life of reflection on the Word of God. He had begun his street mission about three years earlier and told me that, as people responded to the Scriptures, he had seen changed lives. 
I wandered among the people talking with them and I realised he was right. They were excited about the Scriptures and what they learned about God’s presence with them. To see these people filled with hope and joy in the worst of circumstances was a real experience of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is within us, among us and yet beyond us. It can’t be quantified or limited or even fully explained, but it can be experienced. Church is one of the means by which the kingdom can grow but not the only means. Wherever there is love, joy, forgiveness, peace, there is the Kingdom of God. 
In the parables Jesus tells us that when the kingdom is recognised people will give up an awful lot to become part of it because it’s a very attractive, human experience which brings life. What makes us part of that kingdom is to turn from self and turn towards God. That changing of direction is a life-time process. Every day we fall away from the values of the kingdom and so every day we need to ‘repent’, turning towards the kingdom and away from self. Richard Rohr says that in one breath we need to say, ‘Thy kingdom come’ and, in the next, ‘My kingdom go’.
To live in the kingdom will bring us life and isn’t dependent on what’s happening around us. Even when times are hard the kingdom can still be experienced by those who want it. So let’s pray for an experience of the kingdom which will change us deeply within.