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This is an excerpt from a talk given during our summer program.

This week’s theme of our summer school is entitled: “Listen to the Words of the Kingdom.” I’d like then to share a bit about “kingdom” and “listening.”

When I hear the words of Scripture, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all will be given unto you, I can hear them as saying, “Implement ye first, or build ye first the kingdom of God.”

In seeking, I will probably build, but if I worry too much about building the kingdom, I may well end up toiling for my own kingdom. And if I set out with a big plan, I risk shooting myself in the foot, and might also shoot a lot of other people on the way.

If I seek the kingdom of God, though, I might just be led into his kingdom. And this will happen unbeknownst to me, somehow. The real call is to seek.

Seeking is very active; all of my senses are attuned. “I want to find this person; I want to find this thing.”

It is also very much an act of listening. My senses are keen, focused and receptive. I see that this kind of seeking is what I am more and more called to every day and in every circumstance, as a Christian and as a member of Madonna House.

Life as it is, my life, the life of the community, does not always match my idea of what the kingdom should be or look like. It can be so messy; it can be painful or challenging, and sometimes downright outrageous. It is easy for me to imagine that if I really lived the kingdom, or in the kingdom, we would all get along together, the cows would not crap all over the milking parlour, etc. You name it!

Somewhere deep within, I have this idea that to live in the kingdom means I won’t suffer, or be intimidated or irritated.

But I ask myself, is that the kingdom that Jesus Christ showed me?

The kingdom where he lived, his life? The Sermon on the Mount is a prime example of where we see the life of Christ. This is first of all who he himself is. And he says, “If you enter into this with me, you will be blessed.”

The kingdom of God is Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is in our midst, in the midst of life today, just as it is right now.

Do I seek him? My life can be painful, messy, disorganized, unmanageable. I can be screaming, “Why, why, why? No, no no!” But somehow, if I am turned to him in this, if I am crying out or screaming to Christ, in Christ, then the kingdom is still happening. The kingdom is being built, and it is not me building it. Christ is doing it, and [while he does it], he is holding me and transforming my heart. And that matters much!

Jesus tells Pilate in the Gospel, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). His kingdom has nothing to do with power or domination. It’s something totally different, not of this world.

I want to see the kingdom in this world, as it makes sense to me, my own idea of the kingdom.

The following is to me a beautiful image of the kingdom not being of this world. It happened in Regina, where our Madonna House serves people in need, many of whom live on the street or in difficult conditions.

One of our dear friends was a native man who had a long and serious drug addiction. One night he was in an old abandoned house with a few of his friends, doing drugs. The house was accidentally set on fire and burnt to the ground. Two of his friends died. We heard of the tragedy.

The next morning, he came over to our house, undone, alone, and hanging out by the dumpster. Our staff member, Doreen, ran out to him to express how sorry she was, as only Doreen can, and she stayed with him, simply to be there with him, to comfort him.

She remembered that cigarettes mean a lot in native culture, so she got some from the house, gave him one, and sat with him while he smoked it. Then she gave him another cigarette to put where his friends had died, because tobacco is an offering.

That is a picture of the kingdom of God breaking into the midst of life. I might think that the kingdom of God should be to get this guy off drugs, that the tragedy should not have happened. But, all of a sudden, the kingdom of God is a woman offering a cigarette to a broken man by a back-alley dumpster. Who would have known? Who saw the hearts and the Spirit?

Let’s not be too quick to judge reality and to demand that this reality be something different from what it is. Instead let us seek, seek deeply and possibly even painfully, “Where is the kingdom here? Where is your kingdom? Where are You in this?” and live this kingdom somehow or other.

Restoration February 2024