Exactly three years ago now, we watched on TV the four-day Diamond Jubilee celebration of Queen Elizabeth II of England. It was a spectacular display of pomp and pageantry with horse-drawn carriages, soldiers, flags, boat parades, music bands, concerts… you name it. We got a glimpse of royalty’s gold and glitter. Shows that shape our idea of a monarchy and a kingdom, namely, an institution of power, wealth and pageantry.
With this in mind, we might be inclined to imagine the Kingdom of God somehow similar to earthly kingdoms. Nothing further from the truth. Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom of God. In fact, from the very first moment of his public ministry, that was the core of his preaching: “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus spoke of God’s Kingdom using terms and images which were familiar to his audience, composed mostly of farmers, fishermen, and shepherds: the seed, the fold, the dragnet, the vineyard…
In today’s gospel, he first compares the Kingdom of God to the seed that is sown in the field and then grows by itself, without the sower knowing it. With this parable Jesus is telling us that our task is to sow the seed of the gospel, the seed of goodness, of honesty, of truth and of justice, without worrying about the outcome. Our task is to sow, not to harvest. Others will reap what we sow—just as we reap the fruits of what our predecessors planted.
Then Jesus goes on to compare God’s Kingdom to a mustard seed—the smallest of all seeds. What a disappointment! God’s Kingdom, like a mustard seed, tiny, insignificant, devoid of all glitter, pomp and pageantry? Well, God already warned us, many centuries ago, through the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways.” (Is. 55:8) We have to learn to understand God’s ways and God’s thoughts.
The gospel parables about the seed express, first of all, the inner vitality and dynamism of God’s Kingdom. Like the seed, it has life within itself. Once the seed is sown in the ground, no one can stop its growth. Same with the Kingdom, once it is sown in the heart of men, it keeps growing and expanding. The seed sown in the hearts of 12 fishermen has now spread to the whole wide world.
Like the seed, so also God’s Kingdom grows slowly and quietly, unlike the swift and noisy way of earthly kingdoms. God is patient; he takes his time; he respects growth’s natural process. We have much to learn from Him: We are impatient; we want instant results; we live in a world of “instant” products: instant coffee, instant soup, instant communication. When starting new projects or plans, we are fond of noisy and impressive beginnings—which often end up in “ningas kogon” We have so much to learn from the slow and humble way of the mustard seed; and from Jesus himself, who spent 30 long years of quiet, hidden life in Nazareth before starting his public ministry.
In some places, God’s Kingdom has grown into a big tree; in others, it is still a tiny mustard seed. As Christians, it is our task to pray and to work for the growth of God’s Kingdom, in our own personal life, in our family, in our profession, and in all the sectors of our society. A big challenge lies ahead of us! “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”