The Reign of God: Dream or Goal
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfiled
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 58:7-10

“Here’s my problem,” a friend said recently. “God’s supposedly working through people to make the world just and loving. But when I look at human history, I don’t see much good having come from groups pursuing grand designs for the world – including the Catholic Church. People with grand plans whether it’s the Romans, the Holy Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformers, the French Revolutionaries, the Nazis, the Communists – they all begin with high ideals and beautiful fantasies and end up hurting lots of people and seriously muddling things up. Maybe the Kingdom of God is fine talk as long as no one gets specific about how it should look or the particular path we should take to get there. Of course, that means it’ll never be more than a sweet idea – but nobody gets hurt.”

My friend made a good point. The kingdom of God is a wonderful image, something we all long to see realized but not something we have the slightest clue how to accomplish. We’re part of a church that fights tooth and nail over who gets to touch the bread and wine that Jesus left us as his sustaining presence! We’ve cut our ranks in half over the correct date for Easter! We barely tolerate folks who want to use different words when they pray! And God is supposed to work through us to end world-wide hunger and war. Seems unlikely, doesn’t it.

It’s noble to dare good in the face of powerful evil. It’s lethally naïve to boast of extraordinary strength when possessed of intractable weakness. So what are we claiming when we pray the Our Father? How many poverty stricken people did we feed and clothe yesterday; how many new people were born? What’s that math telling us?

Whose plan are we following when we say we’re cooperating with God for a transformed world? Can we imagine anyone advancing a program that we’d all agree to follow?

Ancient Christian wisdom says that the Kingdom of God will never guide the world until the Kingdom of God guides our hearts. God’s Spirit simply can’t accomplish her work in us until we invite Her to guide our thoughts and desires. Are we ready for that – to want Her?