THE KINGDOM OF GOD
(A biblical refection on THE ELEVENTH ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year B] – June 17, 2018)
Gospel Reading: Mark 4:26-34
First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalms: Psalm 92:2-3,13-16; Second Reading: 2Corinthians 5:6-10
The Scripture Text
And He said, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’’
And He said, “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables He spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to His own disciples He explained everything. (Mark 4:26-34 RSV)
People are naturally reluctant to change their minds about traditional beliefs and the Jewish people in Jesus’ day were no different from anyone else. They, too, were set in their ways and were reluctant to abandon their long held conviction, especially religious doctrine pertaining to the Messiah.
Some Jewish people in first-century Palestine believed the Messiah would conquer the world and, through Him, God would then restore the world to what it was like before man and woman sinned. This is what the Jews called the reign or Kingdom of God.
Some Jews believed the reign of God would come quickly once the Messiah appeared and that it would be only for Jewish people. Jesus challenges these ideas with the parables in today’s Gospel.
Jesus compares the reign of God to a seed and in the first parable, He stresses how slowly a seed grows. First there’s the blade, then the ear, and finally the ripe wheat in the ear. Just as this process takes time and doesn’t occur overnight, the reign of God will also take time and will not happen all at once.
In the second parable, Jesus says that the reign of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a huge plant in which the birds of the air builds their nests. Notice that Jesus does not say the birds were only sparrows, or only robins, or only blue jays. Just as all birds build their nests in the tree, the reign of God will be for all people, not only for the Jews.
Knowing the people in His audience were likely to cling stubbornly to their cherished belief, Jesus usually chose not to come right out and tell them they were wrong. That method wouldn’t succeed. Instead, Jesus used parables because He knew people were more likely to remember them and share them with family and friends, discussing the meaning of each parable as they did so. In this way Jesus got them to re-examine their traditional beliefs and challenged them to think in a new direction without threatening them.
Each time we pray the “Our Father”, we pray for God’s Kingdom to come. We pray for the day when God will conquer the devil and restore the world to what it was like before man and woman sinned. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to be patient. He will defeat the devil, but it will take time.
Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 178-179.)
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, we understand that Christian hope implies uncertainty and requires patience. You prophet Ezekiel told his people this when he referred to a Hebrew Kingdom of God to come. Saint Mark told his readers the same lesson. God’s word is like a seed in us. Through You, Lord Jesus, our heavenly Father scattered it on the ground. We sincerely want this seed to bear bountiful fruit in the Church today. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 June 2018 [Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest & Doctor of the Church]
A Christian Pilgrim