Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Your Kingdom Come…

Readings: Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34; Psalm 106:19-20, 21-22, 23; Matthew 13:31-35

Regularly, in the Our Father, we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. But what does this coming kingdom look like? When I was little I used to imagine a huge piece of real estate – with trees and buildings on top and soil-covered roots dangling beneath – descending upon the earth from out of the clouds. Then more learned people told me that God’s kingdom wasn’t really about a physical location as much as it was about people acknowledging God’s lordship, God’s reign. Even so, we might continue to ask ourselves the same question. What does this coming kingdom look like? How do we recognize it when we see it?

And it is this same question that Jesus seeks to answer through the two parables in today’s gospel. The kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a tree that gives shelter. The kingdom is like yeast that permeates the dough causing it to rise. But how to relate these parables to our everyday experience? How to recognize the mustard seed and the dough? The story in the first reading provides some guidance especially in the contrast that is seen between the respective reactions of Aaron and Moses.

What does it look like when God’s kingship, God’s reign is ignored? We see the effects in Aaron’s response to the angry interrogation of Moses. What has this people done to you for you to bring such a great sin on them? To which Aaron responds: You know yourself how prone this people is to evil…. I threw the gold into the fire and out came this calf… Aaron quickly seeks to distance himself not just from their sin but from the people as well. They are the ones prone to evil. He merely threw gold into the furnace at their bidding.

In contrast, even though he had no direct part in their sin – he was up on the mountain conversing with God and receiving the Ten Commandments – Moses refuses to dissociate himself from the people. Although he is livid with rage, although he fiercely rebukes them, the very next day, we find him coming before the Lord to make atonement on the people’s behalf. Isn’t this what the coming kingdom looks like? Isn’t this what it looks like when people begin to acknowledge God’s kingship? In his fidelity to God and to the wayward people, Moses becomes a branch in which the people find shelter. With his own hands, he kneads and leavens the chosen people entrusted to his care with the yeast of God’s mercy and compassion. And in his actions, we are reminded of Jesus, the new Moses, the One who, though innocent and without sin, submits himself to the terrible consequences of our treachery, so that out of his sacrifice, the tree of life in its fullness might provide shelter for us all.

What does the coming kingdom look like in our lives? How might we cooperate in sowing the seed and kneading the dough today?

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