Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J

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The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus. “To the other towns also I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:44) He taught his disciples to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” (Matt. 6: 10) He told them to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all of these things will be given to you besides.” (Matt. 6: 33) He handed on this purpose to the apostles, “Jesus said to his apostles: ‘As you go make this proclamation: The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 10:7)

We hear and read this about the Kingdom many times and seldom stop to think what it really means. What is this Kingdom, this Kingdom of God, this Kingdom of heaven? The Kingdom of God is described for us in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. It is a kingdom of holiness, justice and peace. Man is the Lord and Steward of this creation. Made in the image of God he has an intellect and free will and is at peace with God, with himself and with all of creation. But this creation is short-lived. Man is not satisfied he wants to be like God and so exercises this absolute independence and is banished from the Kingdom. In the fullness of time God sends his only Son, Jesus Christ to restore and usher in anew the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which is not of this world. The kingdom begins in this world but finds it completion in the next world.

Jesus used parables to describe the Kingdom of God. He used parables because the Kingdom is not of this world. The direct object of our cognition is sensible, material reality. We know spiritual things indirectly through our knowledge of material things. The parable goes from the material to the spiritual, from the known to the unknown.

The parables of the Gospel are a unique development of a literary form which has its roots in the Old Testament and in rabbinic literature. A parable is a story describing some ordinary occurrence that is told to convey to the hearer an extraordinary spiritual truth. It is an “earthly story with a heavenly ending.” And it is this heavenly ending (the Kingdom of God) which is the real meaning the teacher intends.

Therefore, to understand the parable two things are necessary. First, the hearer must understand the earthly part which is the vehicle which conveys the spiritual truth. That is why Jesus spoke in the simple ordinary language of the people of his day: the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the seed and the sower, light and darkness, salt, yeast and fig trees. Everyone knew these things as they were all part of their daily lives.

The second thing necessary for understanding the parable is that the hearer be open to the truth. Whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the recipient. Every teacher is aware of this essential part of teaching. Every teacher has had the experience of presenting the knowledge he has prepared so well and the pupils are thinking about the ball game, the dance or the movie. It becomes evident on the final exam. "Is that all he learned in nine months?"

The Jews of his day, including the apostles, had false ideas of the Messiah and the Kingdom. They were expecting a strong, military and political leader like David who would rule over a worldly kingdom of peace and prosperity. So they were not open to the truth and as Jesus said, “they look but do not see and hear but do not understand.”

Whether we realize it or not, we all are constantly preaching a parable - the parable of our life. Yes, the story of my life and your life is a parable. My life, and your life, is an earthly story with a heavenly ending. It is a parable that all can read, the Gospel according to me and the Gospel according to you.

An effective way to teach and learn about the Kingdom is to share my parable, the story of my life, with others. I tell my story. To do so I have to conceptualize it in my own mind. And by sharing it I objectify it and I own it. This is my story; this is the way God has dealt with me and is now dealing with me. Then I listen to the parable, the story of others as they conceptualize it, objectify and own it. And I recognize that their story is essentially the same as mine, differing only in the details.

Then, together we read in the Scriptures the story of Abraham, of Moses, of David, of Mary, of Peter and of Paul. We recognize that they are essentially the same story as ours only in a different time and culture. And finally, we realize that all of these stories, including our own, are part of the big parable of salvation history. By sharing the experience of the working of the Spirit in us and listening to the experience of the working of the Spirit in others we are experiencing how God is actually working in our lives. This sharing will also help us to deepen our sense of awe and gratitude to God, our respect and trust of others, the awareness of our unity in our diversity and our experience of the Kingdom of God.

The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus and also of his apostles. Now the proclamation of the Gospel has been passed on to us. And we proclaim the coming of the Kingdom as Jesus did, by parables, the parables of our lives. We proclaim it by our peace, love and joy. We express our gratitude for being called to be a citizen of this Kingdom by being happy, happy to be me. We proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by “earthy mysticism,” by living an ordinary earthly existence while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.

© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J. all rights reserved