Are you a citizen of God's Kingdom?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Kingdom of God is many things. Quoting St. Paul from his letter to the Romans, "the Kingdom of God is... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). We are also told the Kingdom of God is announced in the Gospel, present in the Person of Jesus, and remains in our midst in the Eucharist. So while we may think of the Kingdom of God as some future heaven, perfect yet distant to us, our faith instructs us that it is much closer than that. Are you a faithful Catholic who attended Mass today? Then you are present in the Kingdom. Did you receive the Eucharist? Then you have eaten at the King's banquet.
The Catechism also teaches us that the Church herself is "a priestly kingdom... in which the Kingdom of God is mysteriously present, for she is the seed and the beginning of the Kingdom on earth." Christ in today's Gospel reading (Mk 4:26-34) also speaks to us of seeds and kingdoms.
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.
The tiny mustard seed can be compared to the Church at her very conception. Eleven men (down from the original twelve because one of them betrayed their master and committed suicide), fearful and weak, their small number of followers scattering after the death of their leader. Hardly the start of a great movement, by our human standards. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, that tiniest of seeds has grown into the largest of plants. At Pentecost (the feast we celebrated just a few short weeks ago), Peter preached and three thousand were converted. The story of the Church from that day till this has been success after success. Oh yes, there have been failings and set-backs, but looked at overall, the Church has produced so much growth, and so many fruits. By the end of the Acts of the Apostles the faith had spread from Judea all the way to Rome, preached by Peter and Paul. Meanwhile the Apostle Thomas was bringing the faith to far away India.
Today, the Church has spread the Gospel to all corners of the globe. Over a billion people today identify themselves as Catholic, and the number keeps growing. The Church created the first hospitals, the first universities, inspired the sciences, reigned in unjust rulers and created law, order, justice and charity in so many lands. Who would have believed all this possible, looking only at the small seed that Christ planted 2000 years ago?
But the parable of the mustard seed applies not only to the Church at large, but to each individual Christian. We never know what can grow from our acts of faith. A little prayer said in earnest, five minutes devoted to reading the Scriptures, or the decision to get up, get dressed, and head to Mass today, instead of sleeping in or watching tv -- these small seeds can grow and blossom and become the roots of great faith in our lives. Furthermore we never know the effects that the seeds we plant will have on others. I see this clearly as a campus minister -- it is one of the best aspects of this job. Students will come up to me and mention some little thing I said to them years ago, something which I don't even recall saying, that had a great impact on their faith. I had planted a seed, without even realizing it. But it found good soil in the heart of that person, the Holy Spirit cultivated it, and it grew into something beautiful. How many seeds do we plant without even being aware of what we do?
This is why it is important to be faithful in all things, great and small. Because, where our faith is concerned, there really is no such thing as a "small thing." There are only seeds, waiting to grow.
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374 | POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723