THEME: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
READINGS: Ezekiel 17:22-24/ 2 Corinthians 5:6-10/ Mark 4:26-34
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The expression, ‘kingdom of God’ appears twice in today’s gospel reading. In fact the ‘kingdom of God’ or ‘kingdom of heaven’ is the key message of the preaching of Jesus Christ. He began his ministry with the message, ‘the time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the good news’ (Mark 1:14). The importance of the ‘kingdom’ can also be seen from the fact that the term appears 127 times in the four gospels together, and it is the subject of most of the parables of Jesus.
It is very easy to describe an earthly kingdom, e.g. Ashanti Kingdom and United Kingdom. One can easily talk about:
- Who the king or queen is;
- How he or she was chosen;
- Geographical area or size of the kingdom;
- Its population;
- Its constitution, etc.
It is very easy to do this, because what we are describing is physical, it can be seen or measured. But the kingdom of heaven is not something physical. It is spiritual; it is a mystery; we cannot see nor understand everything about it while on this earth. The kingdom of heaven being a mystery, Jesus chooses to use parables to explain aspects of it. He uses things we know (wheat, weeds, seeds and yeast) to explain what we do not know.
THE TWO PARABLES
Let us now consider some lessons from the two parables of today’s gospel reading.
PARABLE OF A MAN SOWING A SEED
Entrance into Kingdom: to tell us that entrance into the kingdom of heaven is by God’s grace, Jesus uses the parable of a man sowing a seed which grows while he was sleeping. In other words, as the growth of the plant is the work of God (and not the work of the sleeping man), so entrance into heaven is first and foremost by the grace of God.
Yet, we have a part to play. Just as the farmer has to sow the seed, water, till the soil, weed around the plant and cart the rubbish away, so we have a part to play while enjoying God’s grace. Playing our part includes having faith in God, doing good deed and repenting/confessing our sins. Our faith is the seed we sow; our good deeds are like watering the seed of our faith and tilling the soil around it; and repenting of our sins and confessing them are like clearing the weeds and carting or burning the rubbish.
PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED
Entrance into Kingdom: the parable of the mustard seed also emphasizes the earlier point that entrance into heaven depends first and foremost on God’s grace. For the birds that enjoyed the shelter of the mustard tree did not plant the tree. Beloved, humans cannot enter heaven purely by their own efforts or on their own merits. Humans can fly to the moon and to other parts of space; but if we cannot fly to even the sun which is physical, then we are certainly not capable of making a ‘spacecraft’ to fly to heaven! We can fly to heaven only by the loving mercy-craft operated by the divine mercy airline. This craft, which is fueled by the blood of Jesus Christ, has the same Lord as its sole captain-pilot. God the Father of mercies is the CEO of this airline, and the Holy Spirit is the sole operator of the control tower.
Faith and Love: Once again, while the grace of God is foremost, we have a part to play; and we could pick a lesson from what enabled the birds to fly unto the tree: their wings. Their pairs of wings could represent the faith and love we need to fly to heaven. As a bird cannot fly on only one wing, so faith without works of love is useless, and apparent works of love without faith is not sufficient.
Small beginning: to tell us that the ‘recruitment’ exercise starts with a few people but the end result will be an uncountable number of people in heaven, Jesus tells the parable of the mustard seed: a small seed becomes a big plant. It will be a number that this earth is too small to contain! May there be room in heaven for each of us, our children, parents, grandparents and friends. Amen!
Finally, let me end with something I noticed some years ago about a friend of mine. He lived and worked in UK with a work permit. He, however, did not want to acquire a dual-citizenship because he aspired to be an MP (Member of Parliament) in Ghana. Similarly, beloved, this earth is not our permanent home. We have only work permits. Let us, therefore, not live here as if we will stay here forever! Let us rather aspire to be Members of Paradise (MPs of heaven) where we are citizens (Phil. 3:20-21). Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis