2 Cor 5:6-10
The Kingdom of God
The Easter season has ended. The liturgy for this Sunday is a return to Ordinary Time in the Church’s calendar.
In the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus uses parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. A parable is a short story to teach a lesson, usually about something spiritual. A well- known definition by C. H Dodd states that a parable is a “metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”
Often using parables, Jesus’ teaching ministry ultimately was directed toward leading people to live in such a way that the Kingdom of God was real and present in their lives and now is presentin ours. But Jesus also taught that the Kingdom of God is not complete here on earth but will be in the future.
So what is the Kingdom of God? When we’re talking about the Kingdom of God we’re not describing a physical place, but rather, the event of God’s triumphant reign. God’s reign takes place where God’s will, God’s plan for humanity is followed. We pray for this each time we say the Our Father. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9-10).
In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus uses two parables to illustrate what the Kingdom of God is. Both parables involve seeds planted and growing. Anyone who has planted a garden knows that patience is needed. What happens to the seeds planted in the ground is mysterious but the gardener has faith that something is happening. Just as the seed is active underground, so too, God is always active in our lives, loving us and calling us to growth.
In the second parable a very small seed is planted that will eventually grow into a large bush. The smallness of the seed is contrasted with the end result of a very large bush that is strong enough to provide refuge for birds. Just as the birds find refuge in the bush, we can be assured of being cared for by our loving God. Our God never stops providing for us.
We come back to the Kingdom of God where growth of God’s reign in our hearts becomes real when we do the will of God. The growth in our relationship with God may take time, but just like a plant or bush we continue to grow over time. The farmer waters the plants and fertilizes the round to help the plants grow. We need to take time for prayer and reflection to nourish our relationship with God.
The growth of the Kingdom of God is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. It requires our humble cooperation and a willingness to be open to God’s will in our lives. With faith in our loving, compassionate God we will be able to deal with the hard things we might have to face and flourish with gratitude for all the good aspects of our lives.
It is our role as Christians to make the Reign of God real in the here and now, even as we look forward to its fullness in the future.