Where Is the Kingdom of God?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on March 17, 2014

Ask  any Christian, “Where is the Kingdom of God?” and you will probably will get a variety of answers. Some might say, “It’s in heaven.” Others might say, “It’s inside of us.” Or, “It’s the Church on earth—at least when the Church is at its best.” Still others might say, “The Kingdom of God is among us.”  And they might even quote what Jesus said to the Pharisees and to the crowd: “The reign of God (or Kingdom of God) is among you” (Lk. 17:21). (In this reflection, I’m using “reign of God” and “Kingdom of God” interchangeably.)

But the Greek phrase  entos hymon (among you) has been translated in other ways. It can mean within you, with you, between kingdomyou, and in your midst. In his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was, Gerhard Lohfink, a German theologian, offers still another translation. According to him the Greek phrase entos hymon could mean within your sphere of influence, or within your power, or available to you.

He says these translations are truer to the context in which they are said and also to what Jesus says elsewhere. (You’ll have to read the book for his detailed explanation of this matter). But saying that the Kingdom of God is “within your power” implies: 1) that the Kingdom of God is already here—it is not something to come only in the future; and 2) the Kingdom of God is not purely internal; there is evidence of it in the external realm. Lohfink writes: “The reign of God is breaking forth in the midst of the world and not only within people. Every dimension of reality is to be placed within the realm of God: soul and body, health and sickness, wealth and poverty, adults and children, family and society.” (p. 51)

Lohfink says that thinking of the Kingdom of God in these terms prevents salvation from turning into a merely private affair. He writes, “It is not only individuals and their inner lives that need redeeming, but also the situations in which they live—for example, the lack of freedom, the structures of injustice, the mechanisms of manipulation that have eaten their way into society” (p. 52). He adds, “Jesus jesus bookwas not just concerned with souls. He wanted a changed society.” (p. 52)

As I reflected on these words, I found myself thinking: This insight puts greater responsibility on individual Christians. We are not just sitting around waiting for the reign of God to come in the future. Nor are we limiting the reign of God to something inside of us, something divorced from our everyday life. No, we are actively working for the Kingdom to be made more and more present in our particular circumstances—with God’s grace, of course.

I also found myself asking, “What exactly is my sphere of influence?” Well, I am a writer. And I give talks and direct retreats. I certainly have influence when I am engaged in these activities. But my sphere of influence also includes things like these: I live with two other Sisters…I am a member of a religious congregation…I belong to a family…I worship with a parish community…I am a US citizen…I go grocery shopping…I do housework…I frequent a pharmacy. I asked myself, “How am I bringing about the Kingdom of God in these areas?”

It doesn’t mean I give a sermon to the woman who waits on me at the pharmacy. But do I treat her with kindness and dignity? Nor do I ask my pastor to tell me whom or what to vote for. But do I study the candidates and issues and try to make decisions based on who I am and what I believe? After all, the major influence we bring to any situation is the person we are.

girls pushing wheelchair

We all have a sphere of influence. Sometimes we’re the “pusher.” Other times, we’re the “pushee.”

I do not know what your sphere of influence is, but I know you have one. Some of you are married. Others are single, widowed, or divorced. Some of you are parents and grandparents. Others are nuns, priests, or monks. Some of you are students. Some of you have authority at work. Still others engage daily with people on all kinds of levels. Even if you are a resident in a health care facility or in a prison, you still have a sphere of influence—those individuals you meet or interact with every day.

Where is the Kingdom of God? The short answer is: HERE! Wherever you may be!

1. What are some of the components of your sphere of influence?

2. How are you making the Kingdom of God more and more present within your sphere of influence?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Magiera March 17, 2014 at 5:27 am

Beautiful message Sr. Melannie.

What a wonderful concept – sphere of influence! I have some influence with my family, parish community, students, neighbors, village, and my yoga group.

Becoming aware of my influence for Jesus is probably the first step. Something to ponder for Lent.

Kathleen

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Dear Kathleen, Thanks for responding. And thanks for listing a few components of your personal sphere of influence. I hope you’re having a rich Lent! Sr. Melannie

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Shauna Bankemper March 17, 2014 at 5:37 am

Hi, Melannie!

Thanks for the good insights and sharing some on the book, Jesus of Nazareth. I shared your blog with my facebook friends – another sphere of influence!

Blessings, Shauna

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Dear Shauna, Thanks for identifying another sphere of influence–our facebook friends! Melannie

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Nancy Frederico March 17, 2014 at 6:40 am

Happy St Patrick’s Day Sr. Melannie!

A great topic! Everyday I am reminded: have I kept in contact with my sphere of influence? Thank you for giving me a much broader meaning to that phrase. Am looking forward to a great read. Thanks for sharing.

Slainte!

Nancy

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Dear Nancy, And happy St. Patrick’s Day to you too! Yes, that phrase “sphere of influence” really moved me too. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Sister Kathleen Tobin March 17, 2014 at 10:10 am

Dear Sister Melannie,
Yesterday I had an opportunity to hear someone speak and sing who makes God present among us. She is executive director of the Bella Women’s Center in Trumbull County. So much good is being done there through those who offer their services and counsel to pregnant women, especially those with an unexpected pregnancy, and for women who have had an abortion.
Sister Kathleen

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Dear Kathleen, What a beautiful example of someone making the Kingdom present among us. There are so many people doing beautiful things for others–especially for those in turmoil or pain–like someone with an unexpected (and perhaps disruptive pregnancy) or someone who has had an abortion. Thank you for letting us know of Bella Women’s Center! Melannie

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Marjorie March 17, 2014 at 10:57 am

My sphere of influenece is where I found myself when called upon to be the “heart of Jesus.” Today that was on a treadmill when a 23- year-old staffer replied that she wasn’t very well when I asked her how she was. She showed me her empty ring finger which she had showed me with joy when she got engaged. Today I tried to listen to her heartbreak with the heart of Jesus.

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Dear Marjorie, What a poignant, concrete example you gave us when you, on the treadmill, responded so tenderly to that grieving young woman today. I’m sure your listening to her meant very much to her. Thank you for reminding us we never know where or when we may be called to be “the heart of Jesus for someone.” Melannie

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mary james March 17, 2014 at 11:43 am

Top ‘ the morning to you! So many wonderful insights and comments. The kingdom of God is among us, available to us, withing my sphere of
influence–it is up to me to unveil it to all I come into contact with by my
tutoring, driving, smiling, helping, whatever the next right thing in front of me happens to be. Thanks so much!

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Dear James, And Happy St. Patty’s Day to you too! Yes, it is up to you “to unveil” the kingdom to all you come in contact with. That’s a nice way of putting it. I also liked “Whatever the next right thing in front of me happens to be…” Good for you. Thanks again! Melannie

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Amy @ Love and Be Loved March 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Dear Sr. Melanie,

I love this post. Etymology and translations (an context) are so interesting to me. Before I had many little ones running around, calling my “new” name, I used to steep myself in books like the one you mention. I appreciate your reading and sharing. I felt that “old” feeling of learning and insight and “revelation” as I read your reflection. A true nugget of joy for me. My sphere of influence: my four children and husband, my yoga students, my blog readers, my parish community, my pediatrician’s office, the grocery and pharmacy, coffee shop, post office, friends and extended family, my children’s classmates, friends, teachers, school communities, and then everyone those people influence — it seems the list is endless! I’m intrigued and uplifted by your reflection on just what the mystery of the kingdom of God is all about. It has always seemed to me to hold within it the “secret” core of our Trinitarian worship-filled lives. Thank you. Truly. You’re a blessing.

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Dear Amy, Your response really impressed me. Like you, I too love to steep myself in books. This particular book was recommended to me by a Jesuit friend. I’ve really enjoyed it and said to myself, “There are some insights in here for my blog.” I’m so glad you liked this one! I have a few more planned for the future. And I was intrigued by your almost “endless” sphere of influence. Thank you for responding. I’m sure your response touched many of my readers. Sr. Melannie

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Bozo March 17, 2014 at 9:12 pm

I think my sphere of influence is one of my disappointments in life thus far…hoping to have my son remain a practicing Catholic (but he’s not) and being the only Catholic in my family is at times challenging, let’s me think my influence isn’t working. But I will persevere, you never know what can happen down the road.

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

Dear Bozo, We cannot live anyone else’s life but our own. They must make their own choices. Just let your love and prayer be your “influence.” You may not see the results you are hoping for, but your love and prayer are never “wasted.” Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Dawn Petrill March 17, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Hello Sister Melanie!
Happy St. Patrick’s day. What a perfect reflection for today! St. Patrick must have done a lot of contemplation on his sphere of influence- here is his the prayer from his Breastplate:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my left,

Christ on the deck,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me. – St. Patrick

You, certainly, have a wide sphere of influence with your words of truth and wisdom. Thank you for so much for sharing that to all of us. God Bless You!

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

And thank you, Dawn, for including St. Patrick’s Breastplate for us to pray today and beyond. Your response today was within your sphere of influence! Sr. Melannie

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florence March 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I feel my sphere of influence is my contact with my beautiful family. I like to feel that I have a positive influence on my wonderful family and that I am a positive giver of love and encouragement to my grand children
However my husband and I we were the recipients of a gesture of heaven here on earth. My husband and I were leaving the doctor’s office and I was having trouble with his wheelchair, and a young man, a patient ,leaving the office, came to our rescue. He got my husband into the car and helped me with my stress.

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 22, 2014 at 11:22 am

Dear Florence, Thank you for your beautiful example of being the recipient of someone else’s kindness–in this case, a total stranger. Sometimes total strangers can have a very positive influence on us even when our encounters are extremely brief. They will never know–but we know! Thank you for responding! Sr. Melannie

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Deb Carlin March 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm

My sphere of influence is where I breathe. Its quality depends on how I love. It’s effects for good are mystery. I rejoice that it is that way,
Love
Deb

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

What a beautiful way to express it: “where I breathe.” And how the quality of that influence depends on love. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us, Deb! Melannie

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