26 January 2011

The Mystery of the Kingdom Solved

Ss. Titus and Timothy
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph's Church, Ponchatula

What do we need in order to understand the Good News? What is it—in addition to the message itself—that we must have to ensure that we see and hear the gospel as Jesus preached it? You might want to ask: why do you assume that we need something beyond the Word itself in order to understand? Good question. Think about it. If simply hearing the Word read and preached were enough to convert someone, then about 90% of the world would be Christian. We also have Jesus' strange admission to his disciples, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables. . .” Why use difficult-to-interpret parables when trying to explain the Kingdom-mystery? Basically, Jesus admits to using parables in his preaching in order to keep some from understanding his message! He intentionally hides the truth from some and reveals it to others. What is it that those ignorant of the mystery need in order to join the enlightened? Seeing and hearing the mystery preached is not enough for conversion. What's required is an act of faith, a commitment to trusting in God's promises, and a life lived in charity. These virtues reveal the mystery of the Kingdom.

It seems exceedingly odd to those of us living in the tolerant 21st century that Jesus would intentionally obscure the truth of the gospel in order to exclude anyone. His secrecy seems somehow unjust, or maybe a little paranoid. Maybe so, but we could take this secrecy to be a practical precaution. The Pharisees and the Roman collaborators among the Jews are plotting to have Jesus executed. They follow him around waiting for him to say something blasphemous or to do something that would betray him as seditious. Cloaking the gospel in the riddles of a parable seems prudent in light of the political situation Jesus finds himself in. But there's more here than just political expediency. The parable of the sower itself reveals a truth about the Gospel that we cannot ignore. When sown freely, the seed of God's Word falls on different sorts of ground, different sorts of hearts and minds. Some are fertile, some are barren; others are rocky or choked with thorns. The point here is that merely sowing the seeds of the Word is not enough to guarantee a harvest. More is required.

Understanding the Gospel is not simply a matter of comprehending doctrine or memorizing scripture. We aren't solving math problems, or reading a map, or carrying out a chemistry experiment. We aren't dealing with an engineering problem, or logically working out a philosophical argument. The mystery of the Kingdom must be lived to be understood. Faith is a daily commitment to trusting in God. Hope is not a gamble but the firm conviction that God's promises have already been fulfilled. Charity, loving-kindness is the way we express this hope. If we trust in God's providence and firmly believe that His promises have been fulfilled, then we must live now as if we already live with Him in heaven. When we do this, we ourselves become the seeds of the Word; seeds sown freely into the world to take root and produce an abundant harvest.

The question now is: where have you been sown? Are you living in such a way that God's kingdom is revealed to any and all who see and hear you? Are you growing his His holiness and sharing the fruits of your holiness? The Psalm we recited this morning says it all, “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations!” Mystery solved.

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