Weekly Gospel Reflection—27 July 2014
He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
They said to him, “Yes.”
Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”
The “Kingdom Parables” or, “The Stories of G‑d’s Realm.” I love these stories. They offer to us little glimpses into G‑d’s Realm.
One of the things that some people trip up on is Matthew’s use of the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” The other Gospels use the phrase “kingdom of G‑d” (see Mark 4 and Luke 13). Some people interpret this to mean that Matthew’s meaning something else; that Matthew means something different.
That’s not the case at all.
Following a tradition that’s still relevant today, a lot of Jews wouldn’t write the name of G‑d in a way that might be defaced or destroyed (see this article for more information). So, instead of using G‑d’s name, Matthew used G‑d’s realm (or Kingdom).
Another mistake (in my opinion) some people make, and it’s directly linked to the misunderstanding of the word “heaven,” is the understanding that the Realm of G‑d, is only referring to something that happens when we die. That is, “heaven” is about someplace one goes after this life is over.
Because of this, many people thought that G‑d’s Realm would come at the end of history. Even today, a lot of people think something like that. Because of different prophecy “experts,” many think that G‑d will destroy creation and start over. This “new creation” will be, it’s thought, the “kingdom of G‑d.”
Again, that’s not quite right.
Jesus clearly taught that G‑d’s Realm was being planted through his ministry — that G‑d’s Realm was breaking into our realm through him, “Now is the time! Here comes G‑d’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news! (Mark 1.14-15 CEB, emphasis added; cf. these translations). And that understanding is the key to these stories about G‑d’s Realm.
Notice in the stories above that G‑d’s Realm is in the middle of our realm. In the story of the yeast, the yeast (meaning G‑d’s Realm) isn’t added after the bread is finished baking. It’s added while dough is being kneaded.
In the story of the fish, the “good” fish are mixed up along with the “bad” fish. In the story about the “mustard seed,” the seed is planted among the other existing trees. The story of the buried treasure is a story about hidden treasure that’s available in the present time.
All of this points to the idea that G‑d’s Realm was “planted” during the time of Jesus, “grew” through the age of the apostles, and was fully established at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
From then til now and on into the future, the Realm of G‑d continues to spread throughout creation. It continues to permeate all of life — not to destroy it but to preserve that which is good and bring new life.
Notice the “job description” in the last paragraph above:
“[Every] legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”
Too often, the community of faith has thought that the job description of a follower of Jesus was to destroy everything that didn’t line up with our interpretation. But Jesus said there are some “old...things” that are good.
The “head of the household” doesn’t just bring out “new things.” She will recognize the good in some of the “old” things, preserve them, and bring new life to them.
G‑d’s Realm, therefore, is a current reality within our world. Like yeast, it’s permeating all of creation bringing new life to the good “old” things and creating new things along the way.
Our job as “trained disciples” is to be treasure hunters. To dig past all of the layers of falseness within our world to find the “good” that’s buried there. Once found, we’re to excavate it, clean it up, and make it ready for use in G‑d’s Realm today.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC