July 17, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Longing for God’s kingdom in today’s troubled times

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (Mt 13:31-­32).

Although it’s only mid-July, it’s already been a rough year for all of us—especially for those seriously affected by grave illness, economic hardship, racial injustice, violence, fear and anxiety. We understandably raise our voices heavenward and cry out: “Thy kingdom, come!”

Longing for a better world where peace and justice reign, and where every tear will be wiped away because there is no more sadness, suffering or fear, is an integral part of the human condition.

Regardless of who we are, where we come from, or what we believe, we all desire something more—often much more—than we experience here and now in what is sometimes referred to as “this vale of tears.”

As Pope Francis reminds us frequently, the Good News that Jesus preached addresses this universal longing in powerful ways. Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection have overcome the evil effects of sin and death. They proclaim Christ’s unconditional victory over all the forces of gloom and doom, and they make it possible for us to truly be people of hope and joy.

We are rightly sad to witness the devastating effects of evil and injustice in our world. But as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, our response cannot be disillusionment or despair. Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading for next Sunday (Mt 13:24-43) that we are called to be “sowers of good seeds” who prepare for a better world to come by planting, cultivating and then harvesting the fruits of God’s bounty.

Our job is to work together with all our sisters and brothers everywhere to prepare for, and build, the kingdom of God. As Pope Francis says, our work is to build bridges, not walls, and to share the joy of the Gospel with everyone we encounter in our daily lives.

In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we are told that although the Lord is almighty, he judges with clemency, and with much lenience he governs us. “For power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins” (Wis 12:18-19). Our hope is based on God’s mercy and compassion for sinners like us.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Rom 8:26-27). We don’t have to worry about what to say or do in the face of injustice or violence. If we’re listening attentively to God’s word, the Holy Spirit will show us the way.

Of course, we are impatient. We want the kingdom of God to come “now” and we balk at the idea that we must wait for the smallest of seeds planted by us, and many others, to become full-grown plants.

Jesus admonishes us not to be impatient—or to expect the effects of sin and evil (the weeds that choke the healthy plants) to be removed too soon. “Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn” (Mt 13:30). The day of reckoning will come. On that day, Jesus says, evildoers will be punished and “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).

During these troubled times, we should not lose hope. The kingdom of God is coming. In fact, it is already here in seminal form waiting to be sown, cultivated and harvested by us. We dare not give in to darkness and despair, but we also can’t afford to take things for granted.

As missionary disciples of Jesus, we are called to be women and men of hope who work tirelessly for peace through justice and mercy, the hallmarks of God’s reign among us.

Let’s pray for the grace to overcome our doubts and fears. Let’s work hard for the kingdom that is to come by making this world a far better place than it is right now. †

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