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!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Homily: Monday 17th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: Ex 32:15-24, 30-34 • Ps 106 • Mt 13:31-35

The Kingdom of Heaven is where God works.

It's the tiny mustard seed that grows to be a tree, a home for birds. It's the small bit of yeast, the leaven that makes the dough rise. Jesus' use of these natural processes in His parables is meant give us some insight into the nature of God's Kingdom. And to teach us that God's work in the Kingdom involves cooperation on our part.

Notice that you and I are not the seed. And neither are we the yeast. Oh, we work alongside God by helping to plant the seed, or by leavening the dough. But the great work, the miracle of growth, the seed becoming the tree...that's not our doing; that's God's work. Our part is small. And the more we realize that, the more we step aside and surrender, the more receptive we are to God's work in our lives, the more work of the Kingdom is accomplished.

The wonderful thing about this great work of God's Kingdom is that it starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God's word. Just like the seed germinating out of sight beneath the ground, God's greatest work is unseen and causes a transformation from within. Just as the yeast transforms a lump of dough and produces rich and wholesome bread when baked, the kingdom of God transforms those who receive the new life Jesus Christ offers.

When we yield our lives to God and allow His word to take root in our hearts, we are transformed and made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. St. Paul said it best: "...we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" [2 Cor 4:7].

In these short parables Jesus tells us that His way is not at all spectacular; it's a quiet way, a way of humility and love. Instead of seeking earthly power, Jesus went about healing sick and tormented people. Miracles, yes, but not spectacles, not the sort of miracles the world wants to see.

The world's leaders, the politicians, promise the world, but produce nothing but dust...because the world can deliver nothing else. Indeed, almost everything about the Kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of what the world desires. Just like the Israelites in the desert who turned to a false god that demanded nothing - for that would be so much easier than accepting God's Law.

No, man doesn't want to hear God's Word, for the world seeks something else, and what it seeks never lasts. That's the false logic of the world. But the logic of the Gospel turns the world on its head; for it's the logic of paradox, of worldly paradox.

Only in the Kingdom of heaven are the first really the last [Mt 20:16], are the weak the strong [2 Cor 12:10], and the least the greatest [Lk 9:48].

Only in God's Kingdom are the poorest the richest [Jas 2:5]. Only there are the lost saved [Lk 15:10]. It's where the lowest are the highest [Lk 14:10], and where the meek inherit the earth [Mt 5:5]. It's where the hungry are satisfied [Lk 6:21] and where the persecuted are blessed [Mt 5:10]. And to live there eternally, we must die [Jn 12:25].

In a word, what the world seeks, God rejects.

So take heart, because this is the Good News. This is the paradox we're called to proclaim from the rooftops to all who will hear. That's our work. We can let God do the rest through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Our other work within the Kingdom is prayer. For it's under the influence of prayer that you and I grow imperceptibly, that God can work in us so His work of transformation will go far on beyond our own meager efforts.

Let's pray today that we'll be filled with the Holy Spirit, that He'll transform us into the Christ-like holiness God desires. Let's pray that the Spirit increases our zeal for the Kingdom and instills in us a desire to live only for God's greater glory.

And at the end of each day, how about taking a moment to ask, "What did I do today to bring about the Kingdom?"

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