July 20, 2008 Year A
Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: The Strength of the Kingdom
For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (I Corinthians 4:20)
They say that dynamite comes in small packages. A single stick of dynamite attached to something a thousand times its size will demonstrate its enormous power. In today's climate of terror much has been said about smart bombs carried in something as inconspicuous as a suitcase. A small brown bag or box left in a mall restroom prompts a call for bomb squads and an evacuation of the area.
At World Youth Day 2008, in Sydney, Australia His Holiness, Pope Benedict has just concluded a visit with the young people and the young in heart from every nation under heaven. The theme for this event was You Shall Receive Power. The Pope is asking us to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit for an interior transformation and renewal. We can renew the face the earth, of our homes, of our communities if we will but receive the fire of his love. The spiritual dryness of our hearts and Church will become again a land flowing with milk and honey if we will but receive the springs of living water. It is the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life who will open to us the mystery of God's great Kingdom of powerful love. It is today's Church which Pope Benedict is summoning to be prophets of a new Pentecost.
Today's Gospel reminds us of the enormous strength and efficacy of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. Parables come in language that speaks with a clarity that is obscure to those who resist the message. The example of the wheat and the weeds illustrates this. Darnel plants resemble wheat in its early stages of growth. Not until harvest can it be distinguished from the mature wheat. This is why they must grow up together. But the reality remains, resist the true kingdom and the furnace of fire awaits you.
For us as for the disciples, the mystery of the kingdom is revealed in its indomitable power. It is within the inner sanctum of our existence in which the seed of the Kingdom must take root. Christians often feel incapable or insignificant facing the spirit of the age. Perhaps now more than ever before we must embrace our faith in God even if its only the size of a mustard seed. Moses was rescued from a basket floating on the Nile River. David faced Goliath with five smooth stones and a slingshot. Samson routed the Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey. And by the same Holy Spirit that inspired these saints and countless others, the bread and wine on our altars becomes the Body and Blood of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They asked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" For two millennia the Body of Christ has been saying, "Yes, come see a man." "Taste and see that the Lord is good."
Only the Kingdom's unconquered power can create in us a clean heart. Jeremiah the Prophet describes the heart as deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) The words of the Psalmist cry out, "Direct thy steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!" (Psalm 74:3) Understanding more about the Kingdom of God is a matter of the heart because God looks on the heart. Others see us on the outside, while God sees us from the inside out. Within the domain of the heart originates what corrupts us. It is there, deeply within the inner sanctuary of our heart Jesus seeks residence. It is there where we have memory of a time when humankind visited with his maker without barriers; without shame. Never imposing, Jesus proposes to our ache-filled hearts that there is a more excellent way; a way that has always been because God is. Wooing us to himself, standing at the door of our heart he knocks. Jesus says, "If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me." And what was once filled with dead and barren desires thrives again with a benevolent feast of love. The transforming strength of the Kingdom is illustrated by the "leaven hidden in three measures of meal". May we with St. Peter cry out, "Not my feet only, but also my hands and head!"
Let us pray: Dear Jesus take full possession of my being. And in my life Lord be glorified. Through all of my days help me be a new creation, possessed of a higher power, the same power that raised you from the dead. Quicken my mortal body with this power and fill me with the strength of the kingdom of heaven, so like you a bruised reed I will not break. Amen.