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Living in the Kingdom Today
by Mary McEntee McGill
It's March and we are halfway through Lent.
It’s March and we are halfway through Lent. Easter falls on April 4 this year. Right now, we are being called to reflect upon Christ’s life and his direction to be people of peace, forgiveness, and love. I thought that this month we could ponder this call as it touches us in our daily lives today. Bring your group together, light a candle, and invite all into silence to focus on Jesus’ call to peace.

On Sunday, March 14 (the Fourth Sunday of Lent this year), in the first part of the Gospel (Luke 15:1-3), we hear how sinners and tax collectors gather to listen to Jesus as he teaches. The Pharisees and scribes complain to each other saying, “What kind of a man is this who welcomes sinners and even eats with them?” 

What kind of man is this? This man is a teacher and he teaches by example as well as word. Gathering with sinners, he provides a clear example of what all of us are called to do and what all of us are called to be. Jesus is a man who does not separate himself from others. He teaches others to be people who do not judge and who do not let fear separate them from one another. This teaching often can be difficult for us to understand and live. What are we to do?

Leader: Let’s go back to a favored reading from Isaiah that tells us that God’s kingdom—the kingdom Jesus teaches about—is a place where we will be at peace with all. (Read Isaiah 11:6-9.)

We are called by Christ to be people of peace. We are called to make our world a place of peace, a place where all are at peace and no one is afraid. Is this possible?

Commentary: I knew a woman named B.J. who was a science teacher, a mentor, and a friend when I was a teenager. B.J. was a single woman and shared her home with a blue parakeet, three cocker spaniels, two tabby cats, a small grey rabbit, and a tiny black-and-white rat she had brought home from school when it was rejected by its mother.

I liked to visit B.J., and it wasn’t unusual to find in her living room a dog, a cat or two, and a rabbit curled up in a ball, sound asleep at the end of the sofa. I remember the time I saw the rabbit gnawing on the end of a milkbone while the rat chewed on the other. The dogs watched quietly. The parakeet occasionally enjoyed riding on the head of one of the dogs—and all these creatures shared a large water dish and food bowl in the kitchen.  They were all delighted when B.J. entered the driveway, knowing that gentle attention for all would follow.

I used to wonder how it was that all these creatures could live as peaceful friends in this household. It seems that each creature knew that his or her needs were provided for—food, warmth, and love. They knew they had nothing to fear.

Perhaps, if a wolf did not feel hunger, he would have no desire to consume the lamb that is nearby. Maybe a cobra, unafraid of the child outside the den, would never need to protect her home by attacking.

Jesus calls us to make this a gentler world by caring for others—even those we fear—by offering help in the form of food, friendship, and acceptance. Let’s take time to see if any of us can remember a time when we or those around us were able to do this. Think of a person you would like to be able to help but, for some reason, you are afraid. Can you share an experience?

Allow time for your community to think and pray about this. You may have something you would like to share as a way to begin the discussion.

It was hard for the scribes and Pharisees to consider this. It can be hard for us as well.  After all, the media keeps us keenly aware of evil in the world and our need for defense and protection. Yet, we pray for our enemies as well as our friends. And when we feel we should avoid the needs of another or not act in peace, remember this teaching of Jesus. In his kingdom, all share in the peaceful love of God.

Jesus told us that the kingdom is in our midst. Let us trust this.

Mary is the Pastoral Associate for Religious Education and Liturgical Education for Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas, TX. She is the author of Stories to Invite Faith Sharing (Resource Publications).

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