As we begin to listen carefully to our Scriptures of today, it’s important to remind ourselves what we mean by this Reign of God. Sometimes it’s called the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, but the Reign of God is really the best terminology because when you say Kingdom of God or Kingdom or Heaven, you think of a place. That isn’t what Jesus is talking about. When He began His public life, He said, “The Reign of God is at hand. Change your lives.” It’s something that we can enter into, a relationship, if we change our lives. One Scripture commentator has described the Reign of God as the dynamic rule of God’s saving or healing love, that which makes us whole and all that we can be. That’s the Reign of God.
The Peace Pulpit
In order to hear deeply the words that Jesus proclaims to us today, I think it’s important once more to remind ourselves that at the beginning of his public life Jesus had proclaimed, “The reign of God is at hand” -- and then he said, “change your lives.”
Every so often, I get in the mail (and probably some of you do also) notices about retreats, workshops and various kinds of activities like that, that will enlighten us and strengthen us in our faith.
John and the other first disciples had this insight about God: God is love. Love is something that goes out and becomes an interaction. So if God is love, then somehow within God, there is a beauty of life. We know if we experienced love, there is God. God is love. So we begin to have the beginning of an understanding of what we celebrate today, and the kind of God we celebrate, who is love, is proclaimed very beautifully in our first lesson.
Over these past seven weeks, we have been celebrating what is contained in a hymn preserved for us in the Letter of Saint Paul to the Church at Philippi. It’s a hymn that probably was sung at the time of a person’s reception into the church.
As we listen to the readings today about the final event in the life of Jesus on earth -- His leaving the earth and going to heaven -- we get an impression, I think, that everything is now well organized and Jesus had given to the disciples instructions on how to go and proclaim the Good News everywhere and make the Church happen.
If we think that, we are sadly confused because Jesus did not give a blueprint to the disciples.
Remember last weekend when there was great concern among many people -- in fact, throughout our country -- because there were those who were saying that last Saturday was to be Judgment Day, the day when the beginning of the end of the world would happen.
Once more during this Easter season, on this third Sunday of Easter, we are receiving instruction about the deepest meaning, about the most important mysteries of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Of course, the resurrection is the event that we mostly celebrate and rejoice in, and our Easter season is filled with joy, but this morning, we are being pushed a little bit further and being asked by this Scripture passage today, this Gospel lesson, to look back at the death of Jesus.
Why did He die? Why was He executed? What does that tell us about how we are to live with His risen life?
Now as we begin our reflection on the readings this morning, I think it's appropriate, first of all, for me to say how much I appreciate this opportunity to celebrate with the very family of St. Donald Parish this Sunday liturgy, the second Sunday of Easter, and especially to celebrate with you as you join with the young people of your parish in celebrating the sacrament of confirmation.
I think if we ask the question, "Why did Jesus die?" most of us would say, "He died for our sins and He saved us from the consequences of our sins," but in fact, there's only one very brief reference in the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus that would indicate that He died for our sins.