Published as a column in the Holy Sepulcher Bulletin for July 20, 2014
We all have ideas of what heaven is going to be like for us one day. An avid reader might picture heaven to be a library or bookstore with every available title. A golfer might picture heaven as endless rounds of golf on perfectly manicured fairways and greens. Someone who likes to travel or someone who spends a great deal of their life working probably pictures heaven as an endless vacation resting on a sunny beach or hiking, biking, or camping among gorgeous mountains or other beautiful scenery. Certainly each one of us looks forward to meeting our Lord, getting reacquainted with our loved ones, and spending eternity without pain, suffering, illness, or loss at the banquet of heaven. We each have thoughts about heaven and our visions reflect a hope that we are one day going to spend eternity enjoying ourselves in a most wonderful place.
But Jesus in today’s gospel reading speaks about heaven in very different terms. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” (Matthew 13:24). “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.” (Matthew 13:31) “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Matthew 13:33) Sowing seeds and leavening yeast into dough is heaven? You would probably not think so unless you are a gardener or a cook. Where are my books, the golf course, my vacation, or whatever else that I expect in heaven?
But what Jesus is reminding us in today’s gospel is that the kingdom of heaven is not simply a future destination, but is actually a present reality here and now that we make manifest by how we live out our lives. It’s certainly not easy because the good seed of God’s grace falls among the weeds of sin and disobedience that sometimes flourish in our daily lives. But Jesus wants us to recognize that God is persistent with his love, mercy, and forgiveness and patiently waits for us to bear fruit. He gives us the opportunity to nurture the tiny mustard seeds of faith and grace in our lives into very large growth and the time to work the yeast of faith and grace into the dough of our lives that we may someday rise. The three parables in today’s gospel show us that living a life worthy of the kingdom of heaven requires discernment, growth, and transformation.
The first parable about the weeds among the wheat speaks about the discernment of the master to allow the weeds and the wheat to grow together so that the wheat would be able to bear fruit. To live a life worthy of the kingdom of heaven always involves discernment, spending time to make the correct choices and judgments in our lives. This involves regular conversations with God in prayer so that we can discover God’s will for us and then living out God’s will in our everyday lives.
The second parable about the mustard seed speaks about the incredible growth from a small seed to a very large plant over a long period of time. To live a life worthy of the kingdom of heaven takes patience because it involves very small and incremental growth over a very long period of time. It involves regular periods of reflection and confession so that we may examine ourselves and see in what areas of our lives that we need to grow or prune in order to bear good fruit.
The third parable about the yeast speaks about the transformation that the wheat undergoes as it is carefully kneaded into dough with yeast. To live a life worthy of the kingdom of heaven requires a transformation on our part, a willingness to change from the person we are today, so that we may become the person that God wants us to be tomorrow. It requires us to become people of faith and hope, seeing the possibilities that are open to us if we do change and transform ourselves.
Discernment, growth, and transformation help us to determine God’s will for us, allow us to grow and bear much fruit, and will transform us into the people that God wants us to be. They help us to manifest the kingdom of heaven for others so that we might one day rise to the kingdom of heaven for all eternity, so that we might read, golf, garden, cook, relax, or whatever else we imagine we will do in heaven.
Although heaven is more than we can imagine it to be. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) In today’s gospel, Jesus is not asking us to stop imagining what heaven will be like, he just wants us to realize that our journey to the kingdom of heaven has already begun and that we continue our journey there each day. Let us become the seed and the yeast that grows and rises to new life!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- Am I doing everything that I can to make sure that I get to heaven?
- Do I regularly spend time discerning God’s will for my life?
- In what ways do I need to grow and transform myself?