What is a kingdom? Is it the brick and mortar that build up the castle? Is it the expanse of land a king can reasonably defend? Our notions of kingdoms may be romanticized in the modern era, but for the Israelites, a kingdom held deep historical meaning. Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the Israelites had asked God for a king. After the reigns of David and Solomon, the united kingdom dissolved into factions, and the land was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and, finally, Romans. For the Israelites, a kingdom was something to build, both structurally and civilly. While this had ended in ruin for their ancestors, many of Jesus' contemporaries longed for the restoration of an earthly kingdom.
Jesus' words in today's Gospel are a radical departure from this perspective. He compares the Kingdom of God to a field, but it appears that the farmer has little to do with its progress. "The seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord, the land yields fruit." Jesus introduces his followers to a new sort of kingdom, a kingdom where God provides the growth.
There is work to be done, of course. "When the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come." But for the Kingdom of God to flourish, there are certain things that are outside of our control. We sow seeds of kindness, justice, and integrity ? and then we must be patient. As shoots of faith appear, we nurture the growth with encouragement. As Christians, our task is not to build the Kingdom of God under our power alone, but to trust in the life-giving movement of God.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
The prophet Ezekiel hears this "proverb" of the Lord (the restoration of Israel) while in exile in Babylon around 570 BC. How do you think the captive Israelites reacted to Ezekiel's words?
Paul speaks of Christians being "courageous." How does your faith give you strength and confidence?
Why do you think Jesus often spoke about the Kingdom of God by using parables?
June 24, 2018
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Tiny fingers and toes.
A little yawn.
A loud cry.
An infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.
"What will this child be?"
It is a question every parent asks time and time again. As first steps are taken, as personalities emerge, as a child shows interest in reading or drawing or climbing, the question is on our lips. "What will this child be?" This question is asked as John the Baptist is born. Will he be a priest like his father? Does his strange, unexpected name signal a departure from that inheritance? Could Elizabeth and Zechariah ever have predicted what would be?
Under the tutelage of his priestly father, John "became strong in spirit." As an adult, John would retreat into the desert to preach repentance. He would attract a large following and eventually attract the attention of the rulers of the day. He would point out the adulterous ways of King Herod and would find himself in prison. Eventually, he would be beheaded. But today, he is a child, an infant newly born.
On this special feast, we're reminded of the great humility required of parents. The character formation, the discipline and encouragement, the violin lessons and soccer practices—every parental effort is subjected to the decisions of the child themself. Even children on a sure track by high school graduation transform under life's circumstances. Entrusting our children to God can be incredibly intimidating. "What will this child be," especially when that transformation lies outside of my control? John the Baptist's story might not have ended as his parents imagined. But he is celebrated as the greatest of the prophets, as the one who prepared the way for the Messiah. Here is the hope of all Christian parents -- that our children would be raised in such a way that when people meet them, they meet Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
We hear one of the four "Servant of the Lord" oracles from the Book of Isaiah, composed during Israel's captivity in Babylon (around 550 BC). In what ways do you see John the Baptist fulfilling this prophecy?
In a synagogue in the city of Pisidia, Paul speaks of the preaching of John the Baptist, about 20 years after John's martyrdom. What does this tell us about the oral tradition of the early Church?
Luke is the only evangelist to narrate the birth of John the Baptist. Why do you think this was important to Luke?