The Gospel according to Luke (17:20-25)
Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’ Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. For just as 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 suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”
Today’s gospel provides a challenge to both those who heard these words from Jesus and to every Christian who wonders about dying and heaven. There is nothing more significant to a human being than our own mortality. And, what happens after we die? Yes, our faith assures us that God’s promise of eternal life is a reality. But how and when will it happen? We probably wonder about this because, like most things, it is not in our control. And we don’t like when we are not in control.
First let’s look at when the kingdom of God will come. Or in other words, when Jesus will return. Jesus said that when he returned heaven and earth would become one and he will separate the goats from the sheep. The day of judgement will be upon us all. However, Jesus said we know not the hour nor the day. Chances are none of us living today will experience the Parousia. But one thing is certain, we will all die and be in the presence of Jesus. But it appears Jesus is trying to say that the kingdom of heaven came when He was born. He brought heaven to earth through his humble act of becoming one of us. That is why he said, “For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” No need to wait. He is here.
Second, when will this happen for us? Again, we do not know. Based on our awareness of how fragile life is and our own experience with loved ones who “go home” we know it can be at any time. So why does it seem that our lives do not reflect the urgency of this fact. Let’s go back to the concept of control. We do a pretty good job of fooling ourselves into thinking we control our lives and our destiny. However, in moments of clarity, we realize this is not true. Yes, we have free will but that does not change that we are the created not the creator.
Regardless of when we die, we do not have to wait to be in the presence of Jesus. He promised he would not leave us orphaned. He is with us, around us, within us. Although we cannot have the full divine experience of heaven yet, this is the gift that awaits all who love him. And the beautiful thing is, we can share in the preview of things to come, now.
Action of the day:
Reflect on your life, death, and resurrection. In prayer and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit imagine what it will be like to experience heaven in all its glory. Also consider the reality that even in our wildest dreams we won’t come close. Thank God for the ability to concieve of such a gift and recognize heaven amongst us and rejoice!