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16th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME 2014

The Kingdom of Heaven is like…

We continue to hear Jesus tell us stories that help us to understand the Kingdom of Heaven which we are called to be a part of. He learned these parables from observing nature, perhaps from helping his father, Joseph, collect wheat in the field or from helping his Mother, Mary, make bread in the kitchen. From these simple parables about nature and common daily experiences, Jesus reveals supernatural mysteries of the truths of God. Think about how blessed we are to know these truths!

Through these teachings of Jesus, we know that God and Heaven really exist! We know God has planted us as seed in the world in order to grow and bear fruit so that when the end of our lives come we may be taken up into his Kingdom like good wheat that is taken up and stored in a barn. The parables also reveal that the Devil really exists and is planting evil in the world that bears the fruit of sin and that those who follow him will be like weeds that are cast into eternal fire. We might take these truths for granted today, but many people did not have this clarity for thousands of years. But now many are turning away from this divine wisdom. That is why we do well to be like the disciples in the Gospel who followed Jesus into the house to ask him to explain the parables. How do they apply to our lives? What can we do to avoid the “fiery furnace” and become like the “the righteous [who] will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father”? Well, we must open our ears and listen.

It might be easy to say that we cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven but Jesus lets us know that it is growing here on earth. It grows in a hidden way, like yeast in flour. Yeast doesn’t make any noise. But, slowly, it expands the flour making it much larger than it was before. That is what happens to our hearts when we allow God’s grace to enter. That is why we cannot give up on our Christian life too soon. God is slowly and quietly growing and expanding us into mature Christians. Some might think that they are too insignificant to make a difference. But the parable of the mustard seed gives the message that the smallest among us, the least significant of us, have the greatest potential for growth. I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta or St. Juan Diego.

We might feel disturbed when we see evil in the world, in the Church, or even in our own families. But sometimes we focus so much on the evil that it makes us evil. It is true that the enemy has planted weeds among the wheat. The easy thing to do would be to uproot the weeds. But weeds can look like wheat and wheat can look like weeds. At a certain stage of development you can tell them apart. So we cannot judge too soon. We have to let God do that at the end of the age. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom says that God is the master of might but he judges with mercy and governs us with leniency. And so as he has been kind to us we are to be kind to others, even to the wicked. We hope that through grace some of the weed will change to wheat. And we know that if we become bitter and harden our hearts and condemn others, we may become like weeds ourselves. So we let nature takes its course. We don’t call wickedness good but we hope that they come to seek repentance for their sins just like we do. And so the evil among us in a strange way makes us even better. It helps us to grow into mature Christians, into true wheat.

This week the U.S. bishops are promoting awareness of Natural Family Planning. It is a mature teaching of the Church. Like Jesus who used nature to teach spiritual lessons, Natural Family Planning is certainly something that has spiritual implications. This annual promotion always occurs on the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s letter called Humane Vitae, On Human Life. He wrote it in 1963 to clarify and promote the Church’s teaching on married love and openness to life. He explained the beauty of God’s plan for married love and the grace that comes with cooperating with this design. He also explained the harm of contraception and the damage it would do to relationships. But despite his clear teaching, many in the Church, including priests and bishops, have sewn seeds of doubt and dissent and have caused the faithful sin. As a result many Catholics live in contradiction to the Church’s teaching. For those who led them astray it will be like the parable of the wheat and weeds where Jesus says that he “will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin.”

But it is important in this time to not judge or condemn but to simply teach that it is better to cooperate with God’s plan for love and fertility and not manipulate or destroy it. Many fear it because they don’t understand it. But the benefits are that it is healthier and helps couples communicate about the most important part of their relationship. That is why those who have a much lower divorce rate as a result. Yes it takes more work, more sacrifice and responsibility, but it is the difference between wheat and weeds. Everyone knows that it takes little effort to grow weeds and they bear/produce little or no fruit. So true love is worth the extra effort.

It is interesting that in his letter on Human Life Pope Paul VI described the spiritual consequences of using contraception, but now science has revealed their negative physical consequences to women’s bodies and how they can cause the death of the fetus when fertilization does occur. That is why even non-Catholic Christians who once completely accepted IVF and contraception are now beginning to reject them. Yes NFP is not very popular but it is like the small mustard seed that grows and becomes a large tree. Once people learn of both the spiritual and physical benefits, it will be more accepted. Pray about it, learn about it, and begin to live it out. When couples use NFP, they work together, they communicate better, and they have the peace that they are cooperating with God’s plan and design for married love.

The goal is to strive to live not just for this life but for the Kingdom of Heaven. That is what Jesus’ parables teach us if we are the little ones who come to listen to his stories which makes us wise beyond our years and gives us the courage to be wheat despite the many weeds mixed among us. So let us open the ears and respond to his truth today. Let us not be afraid to allow the Kingdom of Heaven to grow in our hearts and take over our lives. May Jesus, Mary, and Joseph be our help and our guides to help us to be fruitful and multiply in grace, love and life. Amen.

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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