Posted by: mmreflections | February 23, 2013

Where is the Kingdom? February 2013

(Dedicated to my brother)

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”  (Mark 10:14-15)

A small group of influential men, representing the company by which they were employed, had to attend a special meeting in New York City.  Their plan was to take an early morning train into the city, attend the meeting and get back home on an early evening train so as to be home for dinner with their families.  The meeting was prolonged but  they still had time to get to the train station for the return trip home.  As they were rushing through the station on the way to the train one of the men bumped into the stand of a little boy selling apples.  The apples scattered in many directions but the men continued on their way.  One of the men stopped and looked back at the little boy; in his heart he knew he could not just leave that little fellow behind without helping him.  He told the other men he would catch a later train and went back to help the boy pick up his apples.  He was stunned to discover that the boy was blind and was selling apples to earn some money for some materials he needed for school.  The man  noticed that many of the apples were bruised so he gave the boy twenty dollars to help pay for the apples.  As he was leaving he heard the boy call out to him, “Are you Jesus?”  I heard this story a long time ago and was unable to forget it.

So often the question proposed to me relates to the Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed as now being here among us.  There are those who complain they cannot see any signs of God’s kingdom.  A long time ago I wondered about and reflected upon these same words.  I began to pray that the Lord would open my eyes that I could see the signs of the kingdom which he announced.  Jesus did say, “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God come in power.”  (Mark 9:1)  When the blind man, Bartimaeus, cried out to Jesus who was passing by on the road,  we are told that Jesus asked him what he could do for him.  The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”  Jeus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus”.  (Cfr. Mark 11:44-45)  Why would Jesus not answer my prayer?

In the days that followed I began to see the signs of God’s kingdom all around me.  In the story about the boy and the apples I saw the kingdom of God unfold in the kindness of the man who stayed behind to help him.  I quickly discovered that rarely will we see the signs of God’s kingdom in the news media.  Occasionally we may see or hear in the news some refreshing story of the kindness, compassion and goodness of some important person.  I discovered, however,  that those acts of kindness were being carried out all around us every day in many places by true followers of the way Jesus marked out for us.  I experienced the kingdom as I began to take time to look at all the beauty surrounding us in God’s creation.  The beautiful sunsets at the end of the day, the flowers and beautiful trees all around our grounds, happy children playing, smiling grown-ups who stop to greet each other, our neighbor who each morning takes a bag of walnuts out to our grounds to feed the squirrels and other wild life. 

In this past week I returned to place where I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania to celebrate the life of my brother, Frank, who died and was buried on Valentine’s Day.  I always knew my brother was a man of great faith.  Faith in God was the most important  and wonderful gift we received from our parents.  My brother, Albert, died a few months earlier.  They were not only brothers but friends all their lives.  These were the brothers next to me in age.  I remember fondly of how they were always together as children, how they learned their trade and worked together as adults and how they encouraged each other throughout their lives.  It seems fitting the Lord would call them both home a short time apart.  I learned many things about my brother when I was home for his funeral.  One of his goals in life, as a master craftsman, was to make certain that all of his eight children would have comfortable homes in which to raise their families.  I witnessed a sign of God’s kingdom at the wake and gathering of friends the night before the funeral.  From the moment the family began to receive friends, family members and the many people who had been touched by his life, a steady line of those offering condolences to his wife of 62 years, children and grandchildren continued late into the night.  It was a very cold, snow winter night but still they came to pay their respects.  I learned that night many things about the presence of God’s kingdom as I heard of the kind and caring acts of my brother.

I also learned of how his faith in Jesus was reflected in the manner of his death.  In recent months he was confronted with many medical challenges but never complained but rather fought to live on because he loved life.  Something happened the evening before he died that gave us all much to think about.  With his wife and children at his bedside there came a moment when Frank’s face began to glow and he appeared to be communicating with someone.  Up until that moment he wanted desperately to live longer but after that moment he told his family he saw Jesus and immediately asked to be taken off life-support and chose not have any further medical procedures.  His son called me shortly after and told me what was happening.  I was able to talk to my brother on the phone as his son put the phone next to his ear.  I told my brother how great a brother he was to me and how much I loved him.  Though he could not talk to me over the phone, his son told me he acknowedged my words to him and responded by telling me he loved me too.  We may not understand what happened in that moment before my brother’s death but it is a reflection of how he lived his faith and loved God.  He died peacefully with faith in God.  Many may find such an exdperience hard to believe but as has been said many times, “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation will be sufficient.”  My brother had a childlike faith.  Despite his faults and failings, his humanness, successes and setbacks, he knew he was loved by God.  He did what he could to manifest the kingdom of God in his own humble way by his kindness, goodness and willingness to help others.

Where is the kingdom of God?  All around us!  We live in the kingdom every time we show kindness, forgiveness, mercy, goodness, compassion, generosity and love to those around us.  We see it each time we witness the same in the brothers and sisters we meet along the way.  The kingdom of God is hidden in the midst of resentments, refusals to forgive, hatred, violence, cruelty, abuse, greed, insensitivity to the poor and less fortunate, prejudice and all the other aspects of darkness that bombard our society.  We all have to make the choices of whether we will fulfill our purpose in life by following the example Jesus sets before us or choosing the paths of darkness.  Those choices will set the stage for the final moments of our life’s journey.  Our legacy will be the fruits we have left behind.

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43) 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Father Mike, so sorry to have you suffer the loss of yet another Brother, Frank. Thank you for the latest “Reflections”. So insightful and thought provoking. You kids must have had a lot of good/great years growing up, and beyond. Happy times are back for our brother Frank.. How long since he has seen Mom and Dad. We love ya Father Mike. Glad you are back safely. Charlie and Patricia Kanenbley

  2. Dear Father Mike, “Uncle Mickie”,
    There is so much wisdom in your words, I have learned so many things in the past two weeks about your brother, Frank, and my best friend “Dad” since his passing on Feb. 8th. Thank you for sharing some facts with me about Your Mom and Dad, Brothers and Sisters during some very trying times many years ago. During the last days of my dad’s life I listened to my dad ask for every type of medicine available and the following day listened to my dad explain to me that Jesus entered his room and they had a meeting, Dad told me Jesus asked him many questions then gave dad a choice to either stick around for a while or to go with Jesus. My Dad’s decision was made effortlessly and immediate and requested all medication be terminated. As I witnessed your final conversation with my dad and he acknowledged your kind words I began to realize how blessed this family was to see how kind Jesus is; also how blessed we are to have you in our family.

    Sincerely,
    Your Nephew,
    John

  3. I have read every one of your posts since you began writing them a couple of years ago. In fact I have read them more than once, and each time I understand the message deeper. My favorite post, however, is dedicated to my father – Where is the Kingdom? February 2013. My Dad passed away in the most blessed and beautiful way any Christian could ever pray for. Most certainly, God sent his son Jesus to take my Dad home. There was no more room to stand in his room in the ICU unit, as it was filled with all his family, Drs. and nurses listening to my father relating his meeting that night with the angels and Jesus. When Dad was finished speaking, each and every one in that room knew they were witnessing a very blessed event. Dad was always a kind and generous man, and always had a special way of conveying his love to my Mom and all of his children. The most important thing he gave to all of us was his faith and love of God. I know my Dad is now in the Kingdom because of his strong faith, taught to him by his Mother and Father and shared by all his brothers and sisters and is now being passed down to our grandchildren. We have all truly been blessed by God. Thank you for writing the February 2013 post and dedicating it to Dad, and for expressing the deep love you had for him also. On behalf of Mom and all my brothers and sisters, we thank you and love you for sharing Dads experience with all your readers and for being here with us to send Dad home. One last thought, My father got nothing that he wished for, but got everything he ever hoped for. Glory be to God in the Highest. Donna


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