Often, when preparing Advent and Lent groups, I have found that what you think will come out of a session is usually not what results on the night itself. Usually any pre-conceived ideas pale into insignificance compared with what God does with a session. This is undoubtedly what happened last Thursday!

So much ground was covered that I am not going to give a report of the discussions but will describe the main strands that came out of the whole session and hope that it makes some kind of sense if you weren’t there. If you need clarification just ask! (Some of the materials we used can be found here. .)

  • From some of our recalling what we have already encountered about the Kingdom of God, we were aware of the two aspects of the Kingdom that we have to hold in tension: The Now and The Not Yet. The kingdom is not of this world, it is of heaven and it is also very near and at hand. It is being fulfilled now and is waiting to be fulfilled in all its fullness. We enter into the kingdom and it enters into us.
  • The Kingdom of God also requires humility. We hear this in Jesus’ words: we have to be born again, be like children to enter. It is found hidden in a field and is accessed by a narrow road and it is as difficult to enter as a camel through the eye of a needle. The kingdom requires us to accept our ‘littleness.’
  • The Kingdom of God is the reign of God in our lives. God alone rules and we “call out to God who already reigns in us” (Blessed John Paul II).
  • We recognised the dynamic in ourselves that sometimes makes God’s call in our lives difficult. We often try to control. Or we often try to side step our responsibility, that action that is asked of us by God. The Kingdom of God requires openness and sometimes we are closed or grasping. The Kingdom can be seen when we begin to embody the Beatitudes.

From the Old Testament Reading and the quote from Pope Benedict we talked about the following:

  • The vision of the Kingdom is one of hope. It is a vision that is attractive and desirable. We hunger for it, for the love and peace that the Kingdom brings.
  • Being part of it is about accompanying God; learning his ways, following his path and being in his light. He is the source and direction and we walk with him.
  • We were also aware of the contrast of the vision of the kingdom of God and the reality of the world. Things are not the way God intended. Wars rage, humanity kills and tortures humanity at all stages. The things that the prophets saw in Israel still exist today. The dynamic which we recognised in our own lives of sometimes resisting God’s will can be seen in the world as a whole.
  • ‘God’s Kingdom means “dominion of God”’ struck a chord. It sets priorities and God is the top of that list. Recognising who God is, is crucial.

  • This idea of ‘dominion’ or ‘reign’ can be uncomfortable or provoking until (or maybe because!) we remember that Christ is the King of this Kingdom. His reign is a reign of love.
  • The reign of God does not require our approval. It is not that God provides a vision and we decide if this is something we can approve or sign up to. God does not require our belief to reign. He has authority because he is God. It is a reality, whatever we think or feel about it. We are defined by God because he created us. We only discover who we are in relation to God. And because we are defined by God, things fall apart when we move away from him.

  • Sometimes we perceive God’s reign in our lives as giving up who we are, giving up our will. However it is more about us allowing God to align our will to him, so that our will becomes what God desires.
  • Our response to God is ongoing and constant. There is no ‘one single ‘Yes.’’ It happens moment by moment.
  • There is a relation between the Church and the Kingdom but it is not a simplistic “The Church=the Kingdom of God.” The Church teaches that no-one is excluded from the Kingdom. We were offered an image of a pond, in which the ripples move out from the centre. There are those who are not formally members of the Church but who are instinctively trying to live out the values and reality of the Kingdom. Sometimes people are outside the formal boundaries of the Church because of their experience of religion. The Catechism says that it is only God who judges who is a member of his Kingdom because only he can see into the depths of people’s hearts and knows what is going on there. Only God has the right to judge. This brings us back to acknowledging God’s rightful place. We cannot say this person is ‘in’ and this person is ‘out’ because this is not our place or right to do this. It only belongs to God.

In the Advent group I am doing at School I have been telling the children that Advent is a time to ponder. I described ‘ponder’ as having a long think about something, to mull it over. I think Thursday gave us plenty to ponder this week as we start Advent.