“The Kingdom of God does not come in a form which is outwardly perceptible. Nor does it come in such a way that one can say: Look here it is, or there. Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17-19
Just saying that you are “Christian” – or even a religious person – does not make it so. And just saying that you are not one, also does not make it so. It takes something else.
If we allow ourselves the idea that the “Kingdom of God is within us” then we might feel as if we had to shut the world out to find it. We might need a long retreat or even a monastery to begin to experience that. Since the Middle Ages there has been a definite split between the monastic life and the “secular” life. Men and women who wanted to devote themselves to God had to separate themselves from the world in order to live a life of continuous work and prayer.
But here we find ourselves in the 21st century, where prisons, hospital rooms and military training schools also become monasteries; where people lose limbs and learn that their true essence is not their body, endure enormous suffering with cancer and other illnesses, where people find ways to help one another in innumerable ways and all the while they are creating a holy place within. We have to bear the burdens of the world, the agony of separation from one another, from nature and the extreme effort to find peace within and any kind of harmonious order without. It takes great courage to wake up every day with renewed hope and trust and yet, this is our call.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, each one of us is a living, breathing, walking, soul-imbued Kingdom of God. What happens when we walk through the world with this thought? Things change. You become the prayer, the world becomes your monastery and you start to notice how many others are here with you.
Carol Kelly is a priest working and living in the Washington D.C. area in the Christian Community, a movement for religious renewal. Learn more here: http://www.thechristiancommunity.org and here: http://www.ccgwb.org.