Jesus explains the kingdom through several graphic but disconcerting parables. It is not a powerful, conquering, triumphalist kingdom that sweeps over everything effortlessly. It is a kingdom constantly threatened, constantly attacked, that cannot easily undo the damage done to it. It stands out more for its smallness than for its size. It arises through humble, unrecognized effort, and then acts unseen.
All this is clear from the parables that our Lord uses in today's Gospel. The first parable, which stands out as one of the few that Christ explained explicitly, is the famous story of the enemy sowing tares in the field. We see the negligence of those who should have tended the field. ("while men slept") and their absent-mindedness once the result of the enemy raid has come to light. They foolishly want to remove the weeds - too little, too late - but the landowner tells them: "Nay, that in gathering the tares ye may pluck up the wheat also. Let them grow together until the harvest". Only then, at the final judgment, will the children of the Kingdom and the children of the devil be fully distinguished. Now, we must live in the midst of evil, knowing that tares can also enter our own souls.
But not only must we face the daily reality of evil among us and within us, we must accept the apparent fragility of the kingdom. It grows inexorably, but may seem weak and unimpressive in the face of the forces of evil, yet in the end it gives support to many. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that one takes and sows in his field; although it is the smallest of seeds, when it grows it is higher than vegetables; it becomes a tree to the point that birds from heaven come and nest in its branches."
Finally, "the kingdom of heaven is like leaven; a woman kneads it with three measures of flour, until it is all leavened." There is no glamour in this task, and its power acts unseen.
Eventually, Christ will come again with power and "He will send his angels and they will remove from his kingdom all the scandals and all the workers of iniquity". All His Majesty will be revealed and the righteous will have a share in it.Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father".
If we want to share in that heavenly reward, we must stand firm against the treacherous onslaughts of the devil and his minions; we must laboriously knead the kingdom of God in our daily activities, knowing that whatever we do will always seem small, insignificant and barely seen. Yet, like birds nesting in the branches of a mustard bush, people will find rest in the structures we build and enjoy the good leavened bread that our hands have laboriously kneaded.
Homily on the readings of Sunday 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaA short one-minute reflection for these Sunday readings.