17th Sun [A] 1999

Fr. Charles Irvin

1 Kings 3: 5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

The Kingdom of God,  ever somewhat mysterious for us; was always on the mind of Jesus. There are almost one-hundred and fifty references to God’s Kingdom in the New Testament, fifty-two of them in St. Matthew’s gospel alone. The more Jesus spoke about the Kingdom the more it seemed to his listeners to be an other-worldly place. Perhaps that’s because in a world gone insane, sane things seem to be unreal.

In today gospel account Jesus referred to the Kingdom as a hidden treasure, a box filled with golden coins buried somewhere in a field. Likewise He spoke of the Kingdom as a precious pearl, a jewel found by a businessman who astutely sold everything he owned in order to buy it. He spoke, too,  of the Kingdom as a fishing net filled with fish both good and bad. Later He referred to the Kingdom as leaven in dough, as light, salt and seed. Likewise He called it a ripe harvest, a royal feast and as a wedding banquet.

We wonder what the Kingdom is for us, in everyday terms, as we live out life here in (____) this week, next month, throughout the rest of this year, and beyond. How do we identify and describe God’s Kingdom here on earth? Some folks think of the Kingdom as a remote and distant heaven in another world at the end of life. Others think it’s an ideal political and economic order. Some think that the Kingdom is exclusively God’s business, not ours, and we have only to wait and receive it from God’s hands. Some identify the Kingdom as the Church; what’s inside the Church is the Kingdom, what’s outside of the Church is not a part of God’s Kingdom.

But what is the Kingdom of God? When did it start? Where did it begin? How did it come into being? For the answer to must go back to the beginning. In the beginning God divided light from the dark. Then God divided the land from the water. Then He made the earth fertile so that living things would grow in it. Then the oceans, lakes and rivers were made to crawl with reptiles and be filled with swimming fish. The lands He filled with weeds, climbers and creepers, bushes and finally great trees. The air and the sky God filled with insects and birds, and on the ground wondrous animals and creatures of all sorts and varieties.

And THEN God made the likes of you and me. He took the face of a man, and then of a woman, in His hands, bent their faces backwards, put His mouth on theirs and blew the Breath of Life into them, saying: “LIVE you woman!” “LIVE you man!” “Live as I live. I place you over the world as my agents, my ministers, my stewards… my sons and daughters. I give you all the earth that you may return it back to me with all that you have done to make it fruitful, productive, wondrous and beautiful, filled with souls for me to love and to love me in return. Have life! Be joyful! GIVE life! Give happiness and joy, give your love and your life to each other and to all. Give my life within you to your children and your children’s children forever and ever. Live together in my love.”

Where is the Kingdom of God? On earth, here as it is in heaven, in us… as it is in God. It is our human life, that sacred space in which lives the very Spirit of God, the very life of God. If that’s not true then the Incarnation is meaningless. The Kingdom is found where God wants to establish it, in our human relationships with each other. That is when it started; that is where it began; that is how it came into being. Jesus is tireless in point that out to us.

God’s Kingdom is God’s will, God’s desire for human life, for the quality of our human life. God’s Kingdom is the expression of His will that your life, and those who live in your life, might be filled with His joy, His love, His mercy, His justice, His truth, and His peace.

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray to God: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done ON EARTH….” God’s desire and will is nothing else but that we be filled with the fullness of well-being, happy living, total life. Nothing else is God’s will. The Kingdom of God here on earth is human life, high quality human life, filled with His glory.

The reason Jesus was recognized as the Son of God was because those around Him discovered in Him the same exclusive diving purpose, namely THE WELL-BEING OF PEOPLE. And so Jesus cried: “Stop being deaf! That’s no good. Hear!”

         “Stop being blind! That’s no good. See!”
         “Stop being crippled. That’s no good. Move!”
         “Stop being mute. That’s no good. Speak!”

And when He met the bleeding woman he said: “Stop bleeding. That’s no good. Give God a child!”

And when He met the widow of Nain holding her only child, her dead son, in her arms…and when He encountered the dead daughter of Jairus, and when He wept at the tomb of his dead friend Lazarus, He cried out: “Come forth! Live!” God’s Word, the same Word that He shouted into the black chaos of the cosmos back in the beginning, went forth from His mouth and came back bringing life, life in its fullness, life fully healed and complete in His glory.

Jesus gave life; He restored life; He repaired life; He affirmed life. He lived life among the broken, the prostitutes, adulterers, widows, and the aged… among orphans, street people, crooks, vagrants and the outcast. He unbound Zacchaeus, a greedy, grasping, mean man who sat on piles of ill-gotten money. And when he was freed,  Zacchaeus became prodigally generous — unreasonably and insanely generous. He became just as unbelievably and irrationally  generous as God.

Jesus detested injustice; He hated unfairness, He was revolted by sickness, deformity and disease; Jesus was disgusted with violence; He set His face against oppressors. And when the Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies tried to conquer Him, He stood in simple silence on the ground of His Father’s Kingdom. Even death itself could not do away with Him. Why? Because He lived for human well-being, having in his heart the same will of His Father for all human life.

ARE YOU LIVING IN THE KINGDOM? Do you sacrifice your own personal comfort and convenience for the well-being of those around you? Does your work give value added to the lives of those around you? Does it add to the sum total of the happiness in their lives? Do your choices, your attitudes and decisions, contribute to the well being of others? Do you give them life, or do you drain life from them? Do you give them joy or take the joy of living away from them? Are you like Zacchaeus before he met Jesus, or are you like Zacchaeus after he started to really live following his encounter with Jesus?

For if you are a savvy businessperson you’ll invest only that that which will last, and in that which will allow others to value you. After all, God’s totally personal investment was in the humanity of Jesus risen in glory as the Christ given by God for us to live in His life. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God invested His own Spirit, His own life, His Holy Spirit in your humanity and mine. In the Spirit-filled humanity of the risen Christ, God gives us the opportunity to share His very own life. And that is a reality that is more real than anything this world can ever dream of offering you.

If you know how to invest, them make this investment, just as did the shrewd businessman in today’s gospel account. If you do, you’ll live a happy, quality life because you will be doing God’s will and living life of real value in His Kingdom.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”