Today’s homily is for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 13, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
Today we reflect for a moment on the Kingdom of God. What exactly is the Kingdom of God, anyway? Jesus taught us to pray for the coming of the kingdom when he taught what we call the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” St. Cyprian of Carthage said the kingdom of God is Christ Jesus himself, “whom we day by day desire to come,” and “because in Him we shall all reign.” The Catechism, in paragraphs 541, we read, “The Father’s will is ‘to raise up men and women to share in his own divine life.’ He does this by gathering men and women around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, ‘on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom.’”
Jesus never tells his disciples what it is exactly, but he starts his public ministry by announcing, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in this good news.” (MK 1:14) He tells them it is at hand, and in parables what it is like, challenging them to reflect a little bit…don’t be afraid to reflect a little bit. Our Lord says it’s like a man who scatters some seed, then day after day it grows until the harvest. That’s pretty amazing, and anyone who has ever planted from seeds knows the joy of seeing that first delicate blade appear out of the dirt after putting a seed into the ground.
And Jesus invites us to consider further that maybe the seed was a mustard seed, once planted, although one of the smallest seeds on the earth, it grows to become one of the largest plants, with branches so large that birds of the air find rest and shade. Joy, growth, rest and shade. When I was teaching religion at Sacred Heart we were studying the Kingdom of God and I asked my students what they thought it was. Many answers were given, and then, presented as the most obvious truth, a student said, “Mr. Valgos, the kingdom of God is every place that God is King.” That’s it. God bless the child that sees the truth so clearly. The Kingdom of God is every place that God is king.
It is God’s Word, Jesus Christ, which is planted in the rich soil of our heart where it begins to grow. But not just in my heart, but in ours. And we are bound together by the Holy Spirit that creates the Church–those who have been called out of darkness into God’s glorious light. In my favorite Marvel movie, Thor Ragnarok, Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins says of their city, Asgard, he says, “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people.” Asgard is wherever my people stand. The Kingdom of God is not a place, it’s a people, it is the Church, gathered together around the table of the Eucharist and looking forward to the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness, when our Lord returns.
And so how are we that kingdom, then? As the Gospel says, like that blade of green that rises up out of the dirt, we too rise up and bring life and joy everywhere we go. As we continue to participate in the sacraments of faith, remain united to each other, pray, fast, give alms, and work for justice, and as we gather for Eucharist to remember, and both look forward to and announce the judgement of the living and the dead, that seed that is in us individually, and communally, continues to grow.
As Ezekiel said, this is God’s work. God plants us high on the mountain and causes us to grow. We put forth branches and bear fruit, and become the majestic cedar, beautiful and strong. Believe that God is at work in you, in us, making you beautiful and strong. Believe that as the kingdom grows in us we become sanctuaries of peace and rest for our friends at school or our coworkers who are going through a difficult time. Our faith puts forth these amazing branches where fearful and exhausted birds find peace and love…where they find God. The kingdom of God is not a place, but a people. It is a people who are filled with life and love, joy and peace. We make God present in a dark world. We bring the light and love of God, we cast out demons, fear and darkness, and bring healing and hope.
The Kingdom of God is everywhere that God is king. Make God king of your marriage and of your family. Allow God to be king of your friendships, and schools and workplaces. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.