Message: How is it with the kingdom of God? Well, Jesus is the kingdom.
Today we have the second homily in a mini-series titled "Through Him." Last weekend I spoke about "Through Him - The Dynamic Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist." I noted that - according to the Disciple Makers Survey - you have a robust faith in the Real Presence. 82% of you strongly agree that "the Eucharist really is the body and blood of Jesus."
That's great news, but it means we have to take a step. If I believe in Jesus' True Presence, I have to focus during the Consecration prayer at Mass - and I will want to spend time with Jesus in the Adoration Chapel.
Let me make a comparison. I can think that Shakespeare is the greatest playwright in human history - which he is! - but I would be missing something if I never read or attended one of his plays. Well, Jesus has done something infinitely greater than Shakespeare. He set in motion the drama of human history and he is the principal character. What's more, he wants you and me to join ourselves to him in that great story.
That brings us to today's Gospel. There's a lot you could say about the two parables: the sower and the mustard seed. I would like to concentrate on the opening sentence, "This is how it is with the kingdom of God." Well, how is it with the kingdom?
To the question, "What is the kingdom?" Archbishop Sartain has a great answer. When he first came to Seattle he gave a three day conference to the priests of the Archdiocese. In one talk he spoke about the parables and what the Greek Fathers teach. They emphasize that Jesus himself is the kingdom. They have a phrase "auto-basileia." "Auto" means "self" as in "automatic" and "automobile." Basileia means kingdom. Jesus himself is the kingdom.
It's interesting that in the Gospels you find the word "kingdom" over a hundred times, but in Paul only a few times. St. Paul knows that the kingdom Jesus comes to bring is his own person. He says that he "would rather leave the body and go to the Lord." That, of course, does not mean to take his own life. As Paul says, we "aspire to please him" and suicide is not pleasing to the Lord. Jesus has a task that he wants each of us to fulfill.
Regarding that task, today's Psalm says "they will bear fruit even in old age." Even though I turn 69 this summer, I believe the Lord still has fruit for me to bear. I am happy that Archbishop Sartain has given me six more years as your pastor. Of course, it's easy enough for Archbishop Sartain to give me six more years. Now God has to do it!
Like you I walk by faith and not by sight. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. What we do know is that whatever happens tomorrow, Jesus will be there. Like the mustard seed, his significance will only grow.
To illustrate that growth I'd like to use the Shakespeare comparison again. Next year will be the 400th anniversary of his death. In those centuries his impact has kept growing. Even if a guy never sees any of the plays, Shakespeare has affected the way he thinks, speaks and relates to others.*
We could say something similar about Jesus, with this difference: None us can have a personal relationship with Shakespeare unless God makes that possible in paradise. With Jesus we can have a personal relationship now. If you remember the Disciple Makers survey, 40% of you say that you have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are growing as a disciple. And 41% went even further: they make that relationship with Jesus the most important in their life. If you think about it, it cannot, it should not be otherwise.
So, to return to our original question: How is it with the kingdom of God? Well, Jesus is the kingdom. He has taught us to pray, "thy kingdom come." As we pray at Mass, may we "be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever." Amen.
*Harold Bloom has a book called Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. I would not go as far as "my uncle Harold" but he makes an important point: Shakespeare has had an enormous impact, not just on English speakers, but on humans in general.
*Here is my plan for the summer months:
From Archives (11th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
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