Have you ever wondered what we mean when we pray “Thy kingdom come”? In the Gospel today we heard Jesus tell his disciples to proclaim “The kingdom of God is very near”, and it makes us ask the same question – we talk about the kingdom but what does it actually all mean?
Let’s remind ourselves first what we mean by God. God is the invisible power that is present everywhere, from deep within the earth itself right out to the furthest reaches of the universe. So God is the power of life in each one of us. Breathe in and out and wonder at the life within you! Nothing would exist and nothing would be alive if God were not in some way within it.
This is surely what Jesus means when he says that the kingdom of God is very near. Too many people think of God as a faraway force – an immense power yes – but very distant from us. Jesus wants us to realise that although God IS a very powerful distant force, quite impossible for us to understand, quite impossible for us to see, yet God is also very very close to us, and through him, through Jesus, we can understand what God is like and how much he loves us. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son… has made him known. (John 1:18)
But if the kingdom of God just means the presence of God, and that presence is very near, why do we need to pray “Thy kingdom come”? I think the answer is that God does not force his presence on us, instead God has given us a part to play in making his presence known. We do that in a number of ways taught us by Jesus. First of all, we make his presence known every time we show love and kindness to other people. The Bible tells us that “God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them” (John 4:16)
But secondly Jesus has given us a very special way of bringing God even closer to us than we could ever imagine. He took some bread and wine and said “This is my Body. This is my Blood” and in another place he says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” (John 6:54) This is why the Mass is so wonderful, for not only are we taught within Mass about how important it is to show God’s presence to others by acts of love and kindness, but we are also given his focussed presence through Holy Communion to help and support us in doing the good things he wants us to do.
Can I explain that word “focussed” by telling you about a rather naughty thing I used to do when I was a child? On a nice sunny day, I would get a magnifying glass, and a bit of newspaper, and I would hold the glass above the paper so that the sunlight was pinpointed on it. Then, quite quickly, the paper would catch light and I would have a tiny fire. That is what focussed means. I focussed the sunlight on the paper and it made it so hot it set it on fire. Light, sunlight, is like God. Indeed we are told “God is light”. (1 John 1:5) Sunlight is everywhere even when it is cloudy, as it often seems to be in England, but sunlight, like the presence of God can be focussed. When we focus God’s presence in this way, then God’s power can be shown.
This is what happens when the priest, on our behalf, does what Jesus told us to do, and focusses God’s presence for us in and through the bread and wine. But then it is up to us to use that focussed presence to bring his presence into the world by acts of love and kindness. His presence in and through Holy Communion is not a magic spell to put everything right for us ; but it a power that we can use, if we want to.
So when we pray “Thy kingdom come”, we are asking God to help us to make his presence real in our lives and in those around us. It is a bit like electricity present in our house. It is no good to us unless we plug in and switch on. We plug in to the power and presence of God every time we come to Mass and receive Communion. We switch on every time we use that power and presence that we have been given to help others in some way, and when we do that we are doing our bit to bring the Kingdom of God nearer. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, every day, in us, Lord God.