Delay does not mean denied – Thursday, 32nd week in ordinary time – Luke 17:20-25
Jesus never defined the kingdom of God; he always compared it to something. To define it would be to limit the kingdom of God; for the kingdom of God is this and yet much more. The Gospels present the parables of the kingdom of God unfolding as one of three realities. The kingdom is a future reality, a present reality (already but not yet) or is reality that has overtaken us.
Luke 17:20-18:8, which is the larger text of today’s pericope highlights fidelity while waiting for the son of man. These are exhortations put together by Luke regarding the end times or what is called the ‘eschatological material’. When days are cherry and bright, one does not think of the Lord but should that dark cloud of persecution hang over (Luke 17:25,33) then one looks for the Lord seeking him anywhere one might suggest. But this larger text is not all doom and gloom for we are told that while God may seem to be delayed, his people won’t be denied for the righteous will be vindicated (18: 1-8)
The text of today is preceded by the healing of the ten lepers. Jesus has just healed ten lepers 17:11- 19 and the cleansing of lepers was one of the messianic signs of the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Yet these narrow minded Pharisees, who for Luke’s community could also be the Pharisees who have now become followers of Christ, are unable to see and comprehend God’s kingdom; this in spite of a great miracle unfolding before their eyes.
The Pharisees’ question presumes that the kingdom of God is yet to come, and will be visible (like an earthly kingdom). For them, the kingdom of God is a matter of sight rather than insight. For Jesus, there will be no external signs to foretell its coming because it is already here but is invisible. Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is among you” or as some translations read, “the kingdom of God is within you” (entos humen) literally, in your midst or among you. The greatest sign is the person of Jesus himself who at the beginning of his public ministry announced its arrival.
Today, when we listen to the news, we can easily feel overwhelmed, nothing seems to be peaceful or joyful, God’s activity seems to have disappeared. Hence Jesus, as he does today, also warned his disciples not to be distracted by scaremongers and prophets who claim private revelations about the end of the world. Talking to his disciples, Jesus encourages them not to get worked up, or even overly curious, about the end times and the (second) coming of the Son of Man. Instead let them concentrate on the here and now, and ponder on Jesus’ own teaching. It is our world; we have to shape it and care for it with patience and courage.
God’s presence and his kingdom is still active. Every time somebody acts out of love, there is God’s kingdom. Where there is justice, no matter how small, there is God’s kingdom; where there is beauty, there is God’s kingdom.