The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Homily: Wednesday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Jer 15:10,16-21 • Ps 59 • Mt 13:44-46

I seem to come across a lot of unhappy people these days. Young folks worried about their future, anxious about what lies ahead, asking whether it even makes sense to get married and bring children into this world. Retirees bored by the freedom of their new lives and wondering about the meaning of all those decades of work. Young and middle-aged couples afraid that their jobs, their homes, their children’s futures – all they’ve worked for – could disappear overnight. And so many afraid of death, unwilling to accept either its inevitability or our faith-driven hope in eternal life.

I suppose we’re all searching for something better, something that will bring true and lasting happiness. How sad that so many look only to the world for what the world can never provide.

This is what today’s Gospel passage is about – about Jesus pointing the way for us, telling us that what we’re searching for only He can provide. He calls it the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven – a phrase that appears nearly 100 times in the Gospels. But what exactly is it?

Listening to Jesus, we know it’s something to strive for; that it’s harder to enter if you’re rich, but easier to enter if you’re childlike. We know it belongs to the poor, the humble, and the persecuted. It has humble beginnings and grows like seed and expands like yeast. It’s neither here nor there, but it’s among us. But even though it’s among us, we pray for its coming whenever we pray the Our Father.

The Kingdom is near because Jesus is near. It’s proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel. It’s been coming ever since the Last Supper, and in the Eucharist, it’s in our midst. But there’s more…

We learn it’s supremely valuable, something for which we should give up everything. This seems impossible, but Jesus says no. He likens possessing the Kingdom to a man who discovers buried treasure or a merchant who finds a precious pearl. Each sells everything to secure what is so very valuable. If we value God’s Kingdom and help build it up, we will possess it; if we hinder its growth by putting ourselves or other things first, we’ll lose it.

You see, brothers and sisters, to be part of God’s kingdom is to be part of God’s family, to be children of God, to become brothers and sisters of Jesus. To possess God’s Kingdom is to achieve the end for which we’re made, to enter into an eternal, intimate relationship with God.

This is Jesus’ message of hope, a message St. Paul repeats when he tells us that for those who belong to God’s Kingdom, all things work for good. Not only is God’s Kingdom the fulfillment of our destiny, but it also brings nothing but good. Just as there’s joy in finding the Kingdom, there’s joy in helping to build it – exactly what you and I are called to do every day.

We build the kingdom whenever we trust completely in God, whenever our selflessness overcomes our selfishness, whenever our love conquers sin and our faith overcomes suffering.

We build the kingdom whenever our hope conquers despair; whenever we visit the sick, comfort the dying, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.

When married couples live their lives as an example to others, they build the Kingdom.

When our parishioners work courageously for life, changing the hearts of those who would promote the culture of death through abortion, euthanasia, or capital punishment, they build the Kingdom.

When our pastoral visitors bring love, compassion, companionship, and the Eucharist to the sick and the homebound, they build up the Kingdom.

When our catechists help parents build a solid foundation of faith for their children, they build the Kingdom of God.

When our outreach ministry assists families in need, they build the kingdom of God.

When prayer groups come together in praise and petition, they build the Kingdom.

And we build it in a special way in the Eucharist, when Father, acting in the person of Christ, makes present His redeeming sacrifice on the Cross.

Someday we’ll be asked: “Did you work to build up the Kingdom or to tear it down?“ Are we like all those unhappy people I encounter these days? Are we so caught up in our earthly lives that we define ourselves only by our work, or our family, or our political party? Are we willing to sacrifice everything for nothing? Or have we learned that happiness comes not from the things of this world; that only God can bring the lasting happiness we all seek.

Life is short, brothers and sisters, but it’s filled with opportunities to build the kingdom. Let’s not waste them.

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