“How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.” ~ Johnny Cash
”I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed for us” declares Saint Paul in the opening words of today’s 1st Reading (Romans 8:18-25), an eye opening proclamation from a man who spent the better part of his ministry being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, shackled and imprisoned. I’m quickly reminded of the words of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who said "It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect through trial and suffering. Only by carrying the Cross can one reach the Resurrection."
Paul’s cross, at least in part, was to do battle against the culture of his time. His underlying and prevailing message was that there exists definitive truth, a truth taught to us by the very Son of God Himself, but so many simply weren’t living it. The authentic Christian in the year 2021 shares a similar cross. We too must live and defend the truth in a world that has grown to loathe it. The Kingdom of God is worth fighting for.
Throughout the Gospels, including today’s Passage from Luke (13:18-21) we hear the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven quite often. The word “Kingdom” isn’t typically part of our every day vernacular, unless of course someone is planning a trip to Disney or perhaps discussing Game of Thrones. With regard to the latter, I myself have never seen so much as a single episode but given the title, I would imagine that a Kingdom, fictitious or otherwise, would play a role in the overall plot.
In the New Testament however, primarily in the Gospels, the word “Kingdom” appears over one hundred times. It was clearly important to Jesus to implant within our mind and heart vivid and diverse images of what Heaven might be like. It is, after all, the inheritance of those who love and serve him. Our destiny if you will. Baptized children of God, who live lives rooted in truth, love and service will reside in the indescribable glory of the beatific vision for eternity. Not just a month, or a year, or a long weekend. Forever.
Eternity is essentially incomprehensible. How can one even describe or fathom this notion of eternity? The idea that there is so much time that there’s no time at all. This is why Saint Paul says what he does in today’s 1st Reading. There are times when praying the 3rd Luminous Mystery of the Rosary wherein Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of Heaven that I can literally picture him, almost exasperated, saying “who else has done for you what I have done for you? And that’s merely the beginning. If only you knew what I have in store for you. If only you knew what I wanted for you.”
Jesus often used parables, as he did in today’s Gospel, which by their very nature always point us towards something greater. Nature is often used, thus the mustard seed analogy that was used today, because we have a certain familiarity with nature. Yet these parables always lead us into the supernatural and, quite frankly, they always come up a little short. Parables can only take us so far. But from a tiny mustard seed, we learn today, “Heaven begins to blossom from our souls” as Saint Teresa of Avila would often say. Faith starts very small, yet despite this, it is indeed where our path to Heaven begins.
Jesus didn’t use a grain of salt or a speck of sand in today’s parable, and for good reason. A mustard seed has the potential to grow and bear fruit. In the case of Teresa of Avila, her path, her mustard seed, blossomed, flourished and culminated in the title of Saint and Doctor of the Church, the latter a title she shares with but only three other women. As God’s prized soul-infused creation, we too possess the same potential to grow and bear fruit. We are limited only by our lack of desire.
The Kingdom of God is available to you. The question is, are you available to the Kingdom of God?
“If you lose Heaven, you lose everything; if you gain Heaven, you gain everything.” ~ Ellen G. White