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June 17, 2018 - On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

When I celebrate mass with our school kids, I sometimes ask them where heaven is. It is not uncommon for them to point toward the sky and say, “There.” One of the concepts that is very close to the word heaven is, kingdom of God. And because most of us imagine heaven to be up there, we also think that the kingdom of God lies beyond us in the far distant future. Even though we often pray “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is heaven,” we really do not believe that heaven and kingdom of God have anything to do with us in the here and now.

The Kingdom of God can be the most abstract New Testament concept. After all, it is not like we can buy an airline ticket to the kingdom of God. Jesus himself was perhaps aware of this. That is why he uses imageries from daily Palestinian life to make it more concrete. I am not sure that even the parable of the mustard seed captures the essence of the kingdom of God. So how can we understand the kingdom?

What is the Kingdom of God? It is based on God and certain core values that are associated with God as we know God in the scriptures. The Kingdom of God exists wherever peace, love, righteousness, joy, patience, kindness, fidelity, generosity and self-control prevail (Gal 5: 22-26). The central virtue on which the kingdom of God rests is love. That is why Jesus put so much emphasis on love. That is why he summarized all the commandments into two basic ones – love God and love one another.

Where is the Kingdom of God? Because the Kingdom is an abstract concept does not mean that it is not a concrete realty. Just our nation exists the kingdom of God also exists. The Kingdom is for real because Jesus is for real. In one sense we can say that Jesus is the kingdom of God because the virtues of peace, love, righteousness, joy, patience, kindness, fidelity, generosity and self-control existed in him in their perfection. The Kingdom does not exist in a vacuum. The Kingdom exists in the heart of the human person. The human heart is its most sacred space. The mustard seed that Jesus compares the Kingdom to is the human heart. Justice, mercy, kindness, love, peace and hope do not exist outside the human person. The human heart is where the Kingdom becomes a reality.

How can I build the kingdom? I want us to think about Jesus hanging on the cross. Even as he hangs on the cross he was building the kingdom of God. In the forgiveness he showed, in the faith he had in God, in his care for his disciples and his mother, in standing for the truth, in his compassion for the repentant thief, he stood for the kingdom of God. He was alone that day but then he knew he was the mustard seed. From that seed his disciples grew. A disciple is one, who like Jesus, tries to live by the virtues of the kingdom and build it wherever he or she may be – at work and at leisure, at home and at work – tries to build the Kingdom of God. He or she does this by living out the virtues of the kingdom. This is how the kingdom becomes a reality.

 “Our Father, Thy Kingdom Come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.”

- Fr. Satish Joseph