Part Four: The Mystery of the Kingdom
John the Baptist preached the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 3:2); then Jesus, after his baptism also proclaimed it (Mt 4:17), followed by Jesus teaching us how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount: “Thy Kingdom come”. So, after he taught in words the charter of the Kingdom (Mt 5 – 7), Jesus revealed the actions (Mt 8 – 9), and sent his disciples on their training course as missionaries, telling them to say, “The Kingdom is near” (Mt 10:7).
What is the Kingdom of Heaven? In this fourth part of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 11 – 13), Jesus reveals the mystery of the Kingdom to the disciples. He speaks in parables (Mt 13), comparing the Kingdom to a mustard seed, to yeast, to a treasure, a pearl and a net. Each parable teaches a valuable moral for our life: In the parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-8), we learn that being good soil helps us keep, grow and use the word of God without worrying about the troubles of the world. The parable of the net (Mt 13:47-50), teaches us that in the Church are both good and bad people, and that all shall be judged at the end of time: “This is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” Several parables are found elsewhere in the other Gospels: In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), we learn that, like the Good Samaritan who took care of his Jewish enemy, we should deal with mercy and love towards our enemies. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we learn that God forgives us when we have gone away from Him, no matter how sinful we are, provided that we repent.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2816-2821) speaks of the Kingdom thus:
2816 In the New Testament, the word basileia can be translated by ‘kingship’ (abstract noun), ‘kingdom’ (concrete noun) or ‘reign’ (action noun). The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us. It is brought near in the Word incarnate, it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ’s death and Resurrection. The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst. The Kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father:
It may even be… that the Kingdom of God means Christ himself, whom we daily desire to come, and whose coming we wish to be manifested quickly to us. For as he is our resurrection, since in him we rise, so he can also be understood as the Kingdom of God, for in him we shall reign (St Cyprian).
2817 This petition is Marana tha the cry of the Spirit and the Bride: “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Even if it had not been prescribed to pray for the coming of the kingdom, we would willingly have brought forth this speech, eager to embrace our hope. In indignation the souls of the martyrs under the altar cry out to the Lord: ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’ For their retribution is ordained for the end of the world. Indeed, as soon as possible, Lord, may your kingdom come! (Tertullian)
2818 In the Lord’s Prayer, ‘thy kingdom come’ refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return. But, far from distracting the Church from her mission in this present world, this desire commits her to it all the more strongly. Since Pentecost, the coming of that Reign is the work of the Spirit of the Lord who ‘complete[s] his work on earth and bring[ s] us the fullness of grace.’
2819 ‘The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ The end-time in which we live is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit. Ever since Pentecost, a decisive battle has been joined between ‘the flesh’ and the Spirit. Only a pure soul can boldly say: ‘Thy kingdom come.’ One who has heard Paul say, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies’, and has purified himself in action, thought and word will say to God: ‘Thy kingdom come!’
2820 By a discernment according to the Spirit, Christians have to distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved. This distinction is not a separation. Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace.
2821 This petition is taken up and granted in the prayer of Jesus which is present and effective in the Eucharist; it bears its fruit in new life in keeping with the Beatitudes. We are not going to analyse in depth the events in the narrative section (Mt 11-12) preceding the discourse on the Parables (Mt 13). We will be content to look at two events. The first tells that the inhabitants of the cities of the lake, Chorazein, Bethsaida and Capernaum, did not repent and did not believe, although Jesus performed many miracles there (Mt 11:20-24). The second event speaks of the prayer of thanksgiving addressed by Jesus to his Father, in which he invites all those who struggle under the burdens of life to become his disciples (Mt 11:25-30). Here we realise that the Kingdom is really a mystery. We don’t understand why some accept it and repent, and others do not. As for discourse on parables (Mt 13), we will talk only about the parable of the sower. In addition we will explain two more parables, which, however, are in the text of the Gospel of Luke: the parable of the prodigal son and that of the Good Samaritan, for they have permeated the life of Christians in two thousand years of history, despite the absence of the Gospel of Matthew being known in the first two centuries as the Gospel of catechumens. We urge candidates for Baptism to read the whole Gospel, and if they have any questions, they do not hesitate to ask those accompanying them.
We hope to clarify part of the “Mystery of the Kingdom”, knowing that the essential thing is not only theoretical knowledge, but above all the practical implementation of the teachings of the Gospel.