Called to Grow: Jesus and the Mystery of the Kingdom of God

Called to Grow: Jesus and the Mystery of the Kingdom of God June 13, 2024

Jesus wants us to understand the Kingdom of God. He knows that it is hard for us to establish a personal relationship with God as Father. This task which has become even harder in our modern world. We are driven to think about ourselves as independent and can tend towards  God being an afterthought in our lives. Jesus knows that all good in our souls originates from having a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven. He himself has an intimate relationship with God the Father and reveals some glimpses of it in today’s Gospel.

Jesus, in his oneness, speaks of his Father — Abba — and of the Kingdom of God, his gaze full of compassion for the hardships and difficulties of human life. He speaks with great realism and, I would say, that the essential feature of Jesus’ proclamation is that it makes clear that our life and the world are worthy of God (Pope Benedict XVI, Catechesis 28 November 2012).

God Inside and Outside of History

The wonderful thing about the Christian and Jewish religions is that through it we are able to see the intervention of God all throughout human history. This is what we call salvation history. Deist philosophers, by contrast, have viewed God as someone removed from the reality of human existence. This is similar to the First Mover of the Greek philosophers. They see God as a first principle, but not as a personal God who is interested in the mundane reality of our everyday existence.

God is actually aware of what happens in human life. This is something inconceivable for a Deist mentality, which would assert that God remains completely removed from our reality. But the reality is we have a God who suffers with us. Jesus directly reveals this to us, and it has a lot to do with his understanding of the Kingdom that he came to proclaim. The Kingdom of God is an expression of God’s desire to enter into a real and personal relationship with each one of us.

Statue of Christ the Redemptor overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro
Statue of Christ the Redemptor overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro | Courtesy Pexels

Keeping it Real

Too often, our discourse about God can seem removed from everyday life. Pope Benedict talks about the necessity of speaking about God in a context that makes him relevant to our  lived human experience.

Talking about God means first of all expressing clearly what God we must bring to the men and women of our time: not an abstract God, a hypothesis, but a real God, a God who exists, who has entered history and is present in history; the God of Jesus Christ as an answer to the fundamental question of the meaning of life and of how we should live (Pope Benedict XVI, Catechesis 28 November 2012).

More than a Hypothesis

God is not abstract, nor is he a hypothesis. God is real, and we can see evidence of it everywhere if we are willing to look at things with the eyes of faith Many of you may be aware that the relic of St. Jude recently visited our parish, and a few days ago I had the privilege of having dinner with a priest who shared a testimony about the relic. A friend of his had suffered a stroke, and on his road to recovery, he received the opportunity to venerate the relic. When he went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment, no signs of the stroke remained—he was completely cured. This man’s testimony is one of many evidences that God’s power is real and he lovingly intervenes in our human existence.

Strategy of Parables

It is hard for us to understand the Kingdom of God. For this reason, Jesus speaks about it usinga technique of Jewish storytelling known as parables—a way of explaining complicated concepts with common, everyday examples. He used this strategy to make sure that his message could arrive to as many people as possible.

Because parables are drawn from everyday life, it would seem that Jesus used them in order to make it easier for his listeners to understand his message (Loyola Press, “Parables and How Jesus Taught with Them”).

Jesus speaks frequently in parables to explain difficult concepts to his followers and also provides  further explanation to his disciples.

“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Mk. 4:30-32).

Kingdom of God

God is present in our world, but he often likes to work with ordinary means, through each one of us. For this reason, God wants his Kingdom to grow within each one of us, so that his love can be even more tangibly present in the world. We are called to grow in order to make this possible. Too often, we have a defensive mentality as Christians, but if we want to utilize our abilities and talents for the glory of God we must adopt a growth mindset.

Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts) (Carol Dweck, “What Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ Actually Means”).

If we refuse to grow, we are dooming Christianity to a gloomy future. If, on the other hand, we decide to develop ourselves and find the way to preach the Gospel in the modern world, we will be promotors of growth. We will be employing the “parable strategy” that Jesus followed 2,000 years ago. Jesus wants us to lead this world to him with love.

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About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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