“The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”
That’s what Jesus told the 72 disciples to go out and tell everyone, and that’s how I’d like to begin my new priestly assignment here with you — the good people of St. Bede:
The Kingdom of God is at hand! I want to claim that truth. I want to lean heavy on that truth!
God’s Kingdom is at hand!
And because that is true — because the Kingdom really is here, and because Jesus (the King Himself) really is here — all I wanna say is:
I can’t wait to see what incredible things God does here at St. Bede.
I can’t wait to see how His power is made manifest among us!
So my question is:
Are you open to witnessing His power today? Are you ready to rejoice at the tangible presence of His Kingdom?
Just look at what He was able to do through the hands of the disciples in our Gospel passage:
People were physically cured!
Hearts were softened and converted!
Demons were driven out!
The Gospel was preached, not in empty talk, but with deeds of power!
And when all these things began to happen, the disciples came running back to Jesus rejoicing, didn’t they? The announcement of the Kingdom astonished even them! And they came to the Lord saying: “Look at what we’ve been doing, Jesus! Even the demons are subject to us because of your Name!”
I have to imagine Jesus just looking at them in that moment and being like:
“Yeah… duh… I’ve given you power to ‘tread upon serpents and scorpions’ and upon the full force of the enemy! Nothing will harm you! This sort of stuff is supposed to happen when believers go out in my Name! This is what I came to do! This is what my Father is all about! Why are you so surprised?”
I pray and fully expect that the same things will happen here and now… through you!
Does that surprise you? Maybe sometimes we think we’re not holy enough, or not worthy enough for God to do anything like that through us. And yet, He’s promising just this. We heard it today in that beautiful first reading from the prophet Isaiah:
“Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent — When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the LORD’s power shall be known to His servants.”
I love that last line: The LORD’s power will be known by His servants!
That’s us! — We are His servants! We know His power! It has spread over us like a river — like an overflowing torrent!
You have been baptized into the Most Holy Trinity! You literally have the Holy Spirit Himself dwelling in you! You have been nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist! You have known God’s limitless mercy in the confessional. You have been personally empowered to go be missionaries for the Lord — to go without sandals or money — and share the Gospel in this day and age. To work wonders (big and small) in the name of Jesus… today!
Jesus’ own words come to mind here: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”
And so, I say it again… I can’t wait to see what God does through you!
Father John Riccardo, the founder of a group called Acts XXIX, recently wrote something on this subject which I found really encouraging, so I’ll share it with you as well:
“Clearly, God didn’t want you and me to live in a time that is dull and monotonous. He wanted us to live now. He has equipped us with everything we need to be instruments in His hands in order to share the Gospel. These are not dark days but great days to be alive. God is not nervous or anxious — He’s chosen you and me for this moment.”
Wow! …That’s something we need to be constantly reminded of:
God has chosen us for THIS precise moment in history… for these admittedly challenging, and yet fruitful days! — He is sending US out today, just as he sent out the 72…
And yes — that will often feel like being sent out like lambs among wolves.
We all know full well that the Gospel message is hard to stomach for a lot of people today. Our Faith seems archaic and backwards to so many modern minds, and our opponents seem poised to try devouring us… to try tearing us down, and to try making religion private and (hopefully) irrelevant.
But Jesus’ invitation is clear: Be not afraid.
These are not dark, hopeless days to be Christian… They are actually GREAT days to be sent out on apostolic mission. GREAT days to preach the always-surprising, always-effective Good News!
So why be nervous or anxious about anything?
God is still working miracles! He is still casting out demons! Still curing people! Still healing and comforting souls! Still converting hearts! Still calling people to repentance!
And guess what?
People are still responding in faith! Still selling everything, leaving everything behind… for Jesus.
Sure, some people are gonna reject the message we proclaim. Some won’t be able to recognize that the Kingdom is at hand, despite the great signs and wonders God is working in their midst. But when that happens, Jesus tells us what we should do:
Just shake the dust off your feet and keep going. Keep moving forward.
Focus on what the Father of mercies is accomplishing. Give Him all the praise.
As our beautiful Psalm today put it:
“Shout joyfully to God, all the earth — Say to God: ‘How tremendous are your deeds! Come and see the works of God — He has changed the sea into dry land! Through the river they passed on foot — therefore, let us rejoice in Him.”
I’ll finish today by asking another, still deeper question:
Where will all this power come from? How can we possibly dare to hope that God will do such great things through us?
Well, St. Paul gives us the answer in our second reading today when he says:
“May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
This is key. Because all of our fruitfulness as disciples of Jesus — all the power that fills us — flows from and returns to the Cross of Jesus. That’s what makes our words and our deeds living and effective. We have no other boast. Nothing else to claim or be proud of.
Apart from the Cross, we can do nothing. Apart from the Cross, there IS NO HARVEST…
So we rejoice not in our own power… but in the power of Calvary. We rejoice, not that the spirits are subject to us — but rather, that our names are written in Heaven — by the power of His Blood!
By that Precious Blood, we can go and announce to all the world:
The Kingdom of God is at hand.