Before embarking on a ship for a cruise, traveling in our cars to a new location, or flying in a jet to a popular tourist spot, many of us will ask our travel agents, search the Internet, and go to our public library for information about our long-awaited trip. And after we receive or find brightly colored brochures, detailed maps, and interesting articles we devour them, committing every bit of information to memory making the new-found knowledge part of who we are before we ever leave our homes.
For the next three Sundays, we journey through the parables of the Kingdom in Matthew’s gospel. On the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:1- 23). On the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Yeast (Mt.13:24-30). On the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear the Parable of the Buried Treasure, the Parable of the Precious Pearls, and the Parable of the Drag Net (Mt 13:44-52). But before embarking on our trip we should take a look at where we are going.
We should know that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke use different expressions for the “Kingdom.” In Matthew’s gospel, the Kingdom refers to the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven, is a place beyond us that is sometimes close at hand and at other times far away. A reality we can reach for but never quite get our hands on.
In the gospels of Mark and Luke, the Kingdom refers to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the sovereignty or authority of God. It is an assurance that a power greater than ourselves is taking care of all things.
We should know that the coming of the Kingdom is the main theme of the Christian Scriptures. John the Baptist shouts out, “Do penance for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2). Jesus repeats the same message (Mt 4:17) but adds more. Jesus tells us that the kingdom is a craving, a desire, a hope. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3). “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mt 18:3).
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is a location, a place, a physical reality. “Truly I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God” (Mk 14:25). “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet they who are least in the Kingdom of God are greater than John” (Lk 7:28)
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is a behavior, a way of life, a way of being. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” (Mt 6:10). “Leave the dead to bury the dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God” (Lk 9:60).
After learning more about the route we will be traveling these next few weeks, I think people will agree with me that there are many meanings and different understandings about the Kingdom. From my experience as a high school teacher I came to the conclusion that when a belief or idea has too many meanings, human beings avoid making any meaning their own. So that while over and over again we hear and pray about the Kingdom we fail to make the Kingdom part of who we are. Nevertheless, throughout history people have challenged us to grasp the Kingdom and make it our own.
In 1894 Leo Tolstoy wrote The Kingdom of God Is Within You. The book reveals Tolstoy’s belief about the Kingdom after his conversion to Christianity. Tolstoy argues that the core teachings of the Kingdom by Jesus have been lost. Tolstoy writes that the Kingdom is within the reach of all of us through passive resistance to evil. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both inspired by Tolstoy’s explanation of the Kingdom.
After reflecting on scripture and reading the work of Tolstoy, I have come to believe that the Kingdom of God is a tone of mind, a state of consciousness. It is a deep human disposition whereby, with the grace of God, we try to become one with God and live according to God’s call. The Kingdom is discovering God within us as well as in others. So yesterday, today, and tomorrow we continue the journey to the Kingdom of God that we began years ago with our baptisms.
Fr. Bob Kelly