The Kingdom of God in Our Midst

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, July 30, 2017
17th Sunday Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s Gospel can seem obvious, even cliché. We’ve heard the stories before. Man roaming in field finds treasure, sells everything, buys field. Merchant finds pricey pearl, sells everything, buys pearl. “God is worth it!” we hear loud and clear. But this Gospel presupposes something that, to be frank, I don’t think is always presupposed. These people were actually looking for something.

Consider the man in the field. He’s taking time away from tasks to wander a patch of open land. Consider the merchant. He knows what he’s looking for and he’s thrilled to discover it. I wonder, if we’re confronted with the kingdom of God in our midst, will we know it when we see it? Have we given ourselves the mental and emotional space to search?

We know something is wrong. As Americans, we’re more digitally engaged than ever before and our time on social media will eat up years of our lives. We’ve seen a popular culture kickback against this trend. Whether it’s the minimalism movement, last year’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or HGTV’s full slate of tiny house shows (there are four, by the way).

But are we any less disconnected? The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently updated its website with more interactive statistics. It has a great chart with the average hours per day spent in leisure activities. Depending on the demographic, working adults watch an average of 3.97 and 5.57 hours of TV per day. They also tracked time spent “relaxing and thinking.” That average? Between 12.6 and 22.8 minutes. With our minds so engaged with screens, with meetings, with tasks and to-dos, if we were confronted with the kingdom of God in our midst, would we see it?

The first reading tells of King Solomon’s dialogue with God when he asks for an outpouring of wisdom. Where does this dialogue take place? In a dream, after Solomon has withdrawn from the city to the mountains, offering holocaust and sacrifice.

What is wisdom, exactly? Pope Francis shares that wisdom “is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God.” It’s the curious look of a man in a field, of a merchant who knows a fine pearl when he sees it. It’s the look of nonprofit volunteer who sees brother in the homeless man. It’s the child who eagerly embraces the grandparent who has become “burdensome” to the rest of the family.

Modern life moves fast. In the same address Pope Francis reminds us, “Obviously this gift comes from intimacy with God … the heart of the wise man has this taste of God.” Are we taking time to slow down and regain our perspective, to pursue true wisdom? Neurological studies have revealed the transformative power of even three days disconnected, and the power of natural beauty to restore our perspective.

It can be a challenge to pause our lives, whether it’s for a mountain retreat, an hour in adoration, or a brief span of silence in our living room. But, as the second reading reminds us, we can trust that when God’s wisdom moves through life’s complications, “All things work for good for those who love God.”

The kingdom of God is in our midst. Let’s give ourselves the space to reset and be reminded what we’re really looking for.

Anna Carter

PRAYER

Holy Spirit and Seat of Wisdom,
you who guided prophets and apostles,
speak today in the silence of my heart.
Drive from me all that clutters my mind and obstructs my heart.
I surrender to you all that burdens me and keeps me
from seeing as you see and loving as you love.
Grant me the grace to trust you in the chaotic circumstances of my life.
May I never lose site of you and the treasure of your kingdom.
Amen.

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