God’s kingdom breaks in everywhere: on street corners and school yards, in sanctuaries and soup kitchens, among sinners and saints. God’s kingdom is among us. Can you see it? Do you feel it?
Someday, the kingdom will fully come over the whole world. All tears will be wiped away. We will all rejoice and be glad.
In the meantime, the divine delights in pulling back the veil once in a while. “This is what eternity will be like,” God whispers in moments of unexpected comfort or closeness with our Creator. These are in-breaking moments, when the kingdom of God breaks into the everyday ordinary, and we glimpse the glory to come.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes the coming of God’s kingdom — and who’s primed for it. The Beatitudes trend the line between already happening and still to come. Blessed ARE many people now: people who are poor, grieving, merciful, pure of heart. They WILL: see God. They WILL: be satisfied. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.
When will these kingdom promises fully actualize? That answer is clouded in mystery. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s time is not our time. But in-breaking moments fuel us with hope that fulfillment isn’t so far away. Holy people, past and present, bear witness to what WILL happen by living fully into what IS happening.
Take, for example, the Beatitude:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
When I hear this Beatitude, I think of St. Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She’s mourning the death of Jesus, a dear friend. And suddenly the kingdom breaks in. The risen Jesus appears. He calls Mary’s name, a comforting reminder that nothing can separate her from the love of Christ.
I also think of a friend mourning the loss of his job. During this dark time, he received a sweet “thinking of you” note from a former colleague—and felt a moment of comfort. Remember, the kingdom can come in the smallest ways.
Or what about the Beatitude:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
St. Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind, a woman who brought a peaceful, steady presence into the chaotic throes of poverty. There’s a story of Mother Teresa walking the streets of London one night when she came across a man experiencing homelessness. The man did not notice her, until she reached for his hand. The man looked up at her and said, “It’s been a long time since I felt the warmth of a human hand.” Mother Teresa was a peacemaker – and the church named her a child of God because of it.
Today when I think of peacemakers, I think of people who bravely step in to stop gunmen during the mass shootings that have become devastatingly common. These people bring peace to violent situations, saving lives that could have easily been lost.
These, too, are kingdom moments.
Then there’s the Beatitude:
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Here I think of saints like Kateri Tekakwitha and Francis of Assisi, who reverenced the earth with great humility and awe. They saw the kingdom teeming out of the created world, bursting forth in every being that creeps and crawls. They cared for our common home and inspire others to care for it, too. Blessed are they, indeed.
Blessed, too, are young people like Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier and Isra Hirsi who are striking to save the earth so that it can be inherited for generations to come. I see the kingdom breaking in through their efforts.
We could go on and on for each Beatitude. All Saint’s Day is a story-soaked solemnity, a day to celebrate saints alive on earth and in heaven who witness to the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in moments big and small. Their stories—and ours—give flesh to Jesus’s big “Blessed” promises. They pull back the veil between heaven and earth, a kingdom already here and a kingdom still to come.
Jessie Bazan is a theologian and writer. She edited and co-authored the book, Dear Joan Chittister: Conversations with Women in the Church, released in September 2019 with Twenty-Third Publications.
Jessie also serves as the program associate for the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. She works with the Communities of Calling Initiative and the Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative, two initiatives aimed at helping Christians deepen their sense of calling.
Jessie is a regular columnist for U.S. Catholic magazine and retreat facilitator across the Midwest. She earned her Masters of Divinity degree at the Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota and Bachelor of Arts from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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