Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seeking First The Kingdom

Reflections on the Readings
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 14, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins

Seeking First The Kingdom

Pray then like this...Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done... (Jesus)

The package warns with big red letters: FRAGILE. Inside is a beautiful piece of pottery, carefully crafted by strong hands guided by a disciplined eye. The result is something that will serve as the center piece of a well prepared table setting, inspiring love and reverence, serving as a special dish for a special bread. It is something that will last forever; forever that is, if it is not mishandled or abused or neglected.

Handed down from one generation to the next, it continues to exhibit beauty and fulfill its destiny. The intentions of its maker lives on as this beautiful piece of pottery continues to inspire conversation about deep things. Things that last. First things.

I remember a special dish that belonged to my mother. It was a pink depression era dish with loops around the circumference and a sunburst design in the center of the plate. I remember it very well because I'm the one who broke it. It laid upright in the transept of our old house. But it didn't endure very well my running through the door way and making lay ups with the basketball on the other side of the transept. It fell to the floor and shattered into more pieces than I care to remember. Along with the shattered pieces lay the shattered memories and heart of my mother. Her words sank deeply into my teenage heart: "You will replace it!"

Many years later, on the occasion of my parents fortieth wedding anniversary I did replace it. Having searched for it through the local antique store and failing to find it I intensified my search. Finally, I located not one, but several at an antique warehouse in St. Louis. I was tempted to buy all of them as the dealer described the very dish I had destroyed as a youth. Making the deal by phone I was happy to finally restore something very special to my mother. I wish I could describe her joyful countenance as she smiled at me, her face showing the strains of Lou Gehrig's. A disease shattering her body.

I now have that dish, carefully guarded in a drawer in my house. Mother and Daddy are among those fallen asleep in Christ, having their hope in the risen Christ, he being the firstfruits of those fallen asleep. And one day they will rise perfected and restored in the image of him who makes all things new. This is the deep and enduring meaning of our faith.

The kingdom Jesus describes is everlasting and those who seek it will be like a tree planted by running water. Jesus speaks of things that will last. Deep things. First things.

Poverty or detachment from things that defile and shatter is to find the kingdom. Self denial or keeping ones affections only for him who first loved us and gave himself for us is to live in the way of the kingdom. Sorrow for our waywardness and sins and seeking reconciliation with God and our neighbor is to know true joy. If hated and despised or reviled and rejected, is to suffer for Christ, bearing fruit even in times of distress and drought.

The wicked are not so. They are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Jesus laments the rich, the overfed, and any who dismiss the dignity and plight of the poor. The poor are fragile and are very close friends of Jesus, who became poor for our sake. He is bread for the hungry, the bread of life for the world.

And blessed are we today who are called to this table. It is the center piece of our salvation. The reason for this feast of love is deep and lasting and inspires us on this first day of the week to always seek first the kingdom.

Let us pray: Dear Father, you feed us with manna that is from above, even Jesus the bread of heaven. United by this feast of love, strengthen us to build your kingdom in the power and might of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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