One of the most misunderstood Gospel terms is
"kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven."
It's a very significant concept. Jesus begins
His public ministry with the proclamation, "The kingdom of God is close
at hand!" To misunderstand the kingdom of God is to misunderstand the
historical Jesus' ministry.
Scholars tell us this particular kingdom
doesn't refer to the life we're expecting to experience after our physical
death. Rather, it's the way Jesus describes God's working in our lives right
here and now.
Jesus' earthly ministry revolved both around
making people aware of God's actions and demonstrating the different facets
of that kingdom. In teaching about the latter, Jesus frequently employed
parables to help His followers see that reality in ways most people never
In Sunday's three kingdom parables (Matthew
13:24-43), Jesus insists we look at the small-to-large aspect of God's
presence and also reminds us that God doesn't just single out the good to
work with. His presence is to be surfaced in a "mixed world"
inhabited by both wheat and weeds.
Jesus warns that a too zealous effort to make
God's kingdom perfect on earth will result in lots of good people being
uprooted with those we consider to be weeds. God will eventually take care
of that part of the kingdom's work. Our job is to keep planting the wheat.
One of our main problems is that we want God's
actions to appear against the background of fireworks and blasting trumpets.
It takes a special person to surface God working in an action as
insignificant as a minute mustard seed or a small hunk of yeast.
In each case, it will grow into something
tremendously large, if only we take the time and make the effort to plant or
mix those small elements into our daily lives.
That seems to be why both the author of the
first reading (Wisdom 12:13,16-19) and St. Paul (Romans 8:26-27) stress our
The Wisdom writer zeroes in on God's acting in
our lives in spite of all the obstacles we place in His path: "Though
you [God] are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much
lenience, you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you."
Instead of expecting us to be judges, God has a different job description
for us: "You taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are
just must be kind."
Weeds and wheat
Paul also presumes that strong-willed,
judgmental people aren't the individuals Jesus wants to sign up to be
proclaimers of God's presence in our world: "The Spirit comes to the
aid of our weakness." The Apostle writes: "For we do not know how
to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible
True disciples have to admit they're not even
certain themselves what to pray for. Without the Spirit's guidance, they
would probably be praying for things which are against God's will.
Getting back to Jesus' wheat and weeds, how can
we be comfortable judging others' actions? Only "the one who searches
hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for
the holy ones according to God's will."
Often, when we tear out the weeds impeding us
from what we conceive of as our clear path of growth, we might actually be
dead-ending God's plan of growth.
The Christian community is unlike any other
organization. It proclaims a kingdom that makes sense only to God -- and to
those who give themselves over completely to Him.