THEME: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
READINGS: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 /Romans 8:26-27 /Matthew 13:24-43
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The expression, ‘kingdom of heaven’ appears three times in today’s gospel (Matt. 13:24-43). In fact the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is the key message of the preaching of Jesus Christ. He began His ministry with the message, ‘repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt. 4:17). In the four gospels together, the term ‘kingdom’ appears 127 times, and in Matthew’s Gospel alone 56 times.
It is very easy to describe an earthly kingdom, e.g. Ashanti kingdom, United Kingdom (UK). One can easily talk about: who the king or queen is; how he or she was chosen; geographical area or size of the kingdom; its population; etc. It is very easy to do this, because what we are describing is physical; it can be seen or measured. But the kingdom of heaven is not something physical. It is spiritual; it is a mystery; we can’t see everything about it whilst on this earth. Therefore, to explain the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus chooses to use parables. That is, He uses things we know (wheat, weeds, seeds and yeast) to explain what we don’t know.
TWO ASPECTS OF THE KINGDOM
Let us now look at two aspects of the kingdom of heaven from the parables of today’s gospel reading: a) recruitment into the kingdom and b) its small beginning.
a) Recruitment Exercise: to tell us about the recruitment exercise, Jesus uses the parable of the wheat and weeds. We may be familiar with United States of America (USA) Visa Lottery. Contrary to a non-USA citizen gaining entry into the country with this lottery, the parable of the wheat and weeds tells us that to enter heaven is not by lottery; it not by chance, but by God’s selection. It is He who will at the end of time distinguish the wheats from the weeds and choose the wheats. The wheats are those who live in accordance with God’s will, thanks to His grace. Aided by God’s grace, may we strive to live in accordance with His will and, eventually, be selected for His kingdom – Amen!
Beloved, evil (represented by the weeds) can’t enter God’s kingdom; that is why Jesus says from the onset of His ministry: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ However, with God nothing is impossible and nothing is too late; so, if our sins have turned us into weeds, may God turn us into wheats for His kingdom, Amen!
b) Small beginning: to explain that the recruitment exercise starts with a few people but the end result will be an uncountable number of people in heaven, Jesus tells the parable of the mustard seed. The final multitude in heaven will be a number that this earth is too small to contain! May there be room in heaven for each of us! Amen! For our parents and siblings, amen! For our (deceased) grandparents, amen! For all our friends, amen! For all our parishioners, amen! For your children’s’ children, amen!
The third parable (in today’s gospel reading) of yeast in some dough of flour, like that of the mustard seed, is about the ever-increasing trend of the number of people entering God’s kingdom. Again, let our daily prayer be that ‘when the saints go marching in …O Lord, I want to be in their number.’
Finally, let me end with an insight inspired during a conversation with a friend. He lives and works in UK with a work permit, but he says he doesn’t want to acquire a dual citizenship, because he aspires to be a Member of Parliament (MP) in Ghana in the future. (The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana does not allow Ghanaians with dual citizenship to become MPs.) Beloved, we are citizens of heaven, thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20-21). This earth is, therefore, not our permanent home. So, we need only work permit here; let us not lead our lives as if we will live here forever! Rather, like my friend, let us aspire to be Members of Paradise – MPs of heaven. Amen!
By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis