Did you know that the phrase, “Kingdom of God” occurs 122 times in the New Testament? Out of the 122 times, 99 of these occurrences are found in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and 90 of those occurrences come from the mouth of Jesus. The theme of the “Kingdom of God” is an important one in the mission of Jesus. In fact, the very first message that Jesus preached recorded in the Gospel of Mark as Jesus began His public ministry was, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15).
The Gospel this Sunday is premised on the question, “what the kingdom of God is like?” and Jesus uses parables to explain. Often, parables are the go-to method of teaching for Jesus, especially when He wants to speak something that is close to His heart. Therefore the parables are not just feel-good stories but are intended to communicate an important message.
In saying that the Kingdom of God is like a good harvest and like a mustard seed that grows into the biggest shrub and offers shelter to the birds, fundamentally it points to the person of God. In other words, where God reigns, where God is respected, where God is thought about, where God works among the people who care and love and are with Him, this is what the Kingdom of God is like.
The Church Father, Origen (c. 184 – c. 253) wrote, “those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God pray without any doubt for the Kingdom of God that they contain in themselves, and they pray that this kingdom might bear fruit and attain its fullness.” However, praying for the Kingdom also implies that we avail ourselves to make that kingdom a reality. Though God can make it happen in extraordinary ways, our human cooperation is also needed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that the kingdom of God began with Christ’s death and resurrection and must be further extended by Christians until it has been brought into perfection by Christ at the end of time. How do we seek to extend this kingdom that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel today?
We can do this by living the way Christ lived, by thinking the way Christ thought, and essentially, loving one another the way Christ loves. The Holy Spirit inspires us to act in concrete circumstances of our lives. The Kingdom of God is not an abstract reality but it is a kingdom founded on love, peace, and justice – all of which we read in the Gospels, Jesus demonstrating in His ministry.
Both the parables used by Jesus point to an element of mystery – we do not know how or when the seeds grow but it grows. In the same way, we do not know when the kingdom of God will be brought to perfection but as followers of Jesus, we must continue to sow the seeds of love, peace, and justice – central to the Kingdom of God.
With the coming of Christ, God has begun the process of making His kingdom grow into the biggest shrub and biggest branches so that birds of the air can find shelter in its shade, and each of us has a role to play. We must not think we are too small to make the Kingdom extend here on earth. If we who have come to know Christ do not do it, who will do it? At our baptism, God sowed this seed of the kingdom into us so that we can live and extend them to all those around us.
What can I do while staying at home? For a start, in this period when there seems to be so much gloom and sadness, we can practice being grateful, being humble, being positive, and being prayerful. In this way, we can be the seed that gradually grows strengthened by the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit to be the “shrub” that extends God’s love.
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (13 June 2021)