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To Do All Things in Christ

 

“I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

During the summer months of Ordinary Time, one of the themes of the Church during Holy Mass on Sundays is an attention to the proclamation of the kingdom of God.  It is during this time that we hear the parables of the Kingdom.  These parables are found in all of the Synoptic Gospels and so they are heard during all three years within the church’s liturgical cycle.

In many of these parables Jesus in fact tells us quite plainly, “The kingdom of God is like…” or “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, it is like …”  In others He is a bit more guarded, but still we know that Jesus is speaking of God’s reign over the lives of His people.

In seeking to know what the Kingdom of God is for us, we must first take a look at the word, “Kingdom.”  For all of us, living now after the time of the great kingdoms through Europe, we have this internal definition that a kingdom is some place with a king as head.  This place usually has well-defined boundaries and it is often in conflict with other kingdoms which surround it.

This view affects how we see the Kingdom of God and also how we see it in contrast to the world in which we live.  Often when we think of the kingdom of God as a place with some well-defined boundary where God is leader, we tend to think only of heaven.  This is then strengthened when we pray the “Our Father” and say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  It is somehow as if the earth is set up as a different kingdom in a battle with the kingdom of heaven.  This is not the intent of the “Our Father,” nor is it how we should regard the Kingdom of God.

Whenever we say this prayer or hear parables about the Kingdom of God, we should always view the kingdom of God in an active, not passive, sense.  In fact maybe a better word would be the “Reign of God” rather than kingdom.  In praying the “Our Father” we desire to have God’s laws, God’s commandments, be the ruling elements in our lives and not anything else.  We desire God to be in charge in our own lives, just as He is in heaven.

When we then take a look at the parables of the kingdom we can also begin to see them in this light.  In Mark 4:26:29 we read of the parable of the sower.  “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise, night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

To those who heard this parable first and also for us today, we can take from it that the reign of God begins to work within us and oftentimes we do not know how.  It is God’s initiative and not ours.  But there are also assumptions that we may not be aware of.  While it is true that God gives the increase for this growing seed, there is a role for humanity.  The human sower is to be on guard during the time of growing.  He must be the one to keep destroying  influences out of the field that is sown.  The sower must be on guard each and every day, so that God’s increase can take root and grow to its fullest.

A similar thing can be seen with the short Parable of the Yeast found in Matthew 13:33.  “He [Jesus] told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’”  Again here the action of leavening the whole dough was not that of the woman, but she did still have a role and it was that of guarding and protection and this time also the action of kneading.  If the yeast was to work to its fullest, the dough needed to be kneaded and then watched and guarded.  Anyone who bakes knows that a yeast dough, to rise fully, needs to rest within a certain temperature range.  Too cold or too hot and it will not rise.  This was certainly known in the time of Jesus as well. God’s initiative is there as the yeast is and it will grow and spread, but how much better is it when we prepare a way for it to work its best.

This reminds us too that if Jesus encourages us, through the use of parables, to spend some time in thinking and considering what are the  implications of His teaching, then certainly He also intends us to spend time in considering what the implications of our own actions are as well.

So then we need to ask ourselves, if the reign of God is among us, are we encouraging it and working for it within our own lives?  And of course I mean this in both the personal and community sense.  Is God the one who is truly in control of your life?  Is it His will you follow?  Is it His commandments that guide you?  And as the parables suggest, are you guarding yourself from things that can draw you away from Him?

As this article opened with the quote from St. Paul to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.”  We know that if we place our entire focus on Jesus Christ and His message for us, certainly all things will begin to fall under the reign of God.  But St. Paul, just a bit earlier in this letters also shows us how we can accomplish this each and every day.  “Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

So then let us think about and consider these things, but as St. Paul reminds us as well, it is in doing them that the reign of God will grow within us.

 

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