A Kingdom without glory
Translation Canon Tony Dickinson
He said: « The Kingdom of God is like a man who sows his seed in the earth: whether he sleeps or gets up, night and day, the seed sprouts and grows, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself… »
For many Jews of Jesus’ time, especially the Pharisees, the Kingdom of God for which they waited consisted in a glorious irruption of the Messiah into history, and irruption which would establish peace and happiness definitively for all the people. It would be a real reversal of the situation, delivering Israel from all his present and past slaveries.
And here is what Jesus is telling us, as far as every announcement of this Kingdom goes, about a small peasant who sows his seed quite gently and goes quietly to his repose while he waits for nature to do her work. This little kingdom, limited to an ordinary field, with no king, no power and no glory, is singularly lacking in scope. And it is understandable that the majority of Jews turned away from this Jesus who offered them as hope only the ordinariness of the everyday.
Yes, the Kingdom of God will not be revealed in a marvellous distant prospect which will never arrive, but it is already appearing in human toil, written down in the rhythm of the days and nights as they succeed one another. It will not come from heaven but from the depth of this old earth, worked by succeeding generations who know that, if they take care of it, the seed will sprout and bear its fruit. The seed will grow patiently in the warmth of the day and in the silence of the night, without anyone understanding how this simple work of the earth can produce all the richness of harvest. No one could understand, especially at that time, but people remained fascinated by this mystery which shows us the power and the faithfulness of God the creator. In one sense, God is absent from the stage, but he is behind the curtain, the principle of life which perpetuates itself at each harvest and with each generation.
When they sow, human beings have confidence in this creator God. They know that, even if they go to sleep, nature will be busy carrying on her work. There is their confidence, there is their faith. We see here this covenant between God and humanity built on trust: the grains of wheat which come out of the earth cannot come only from human toil; no more can they come from the toil of creation. They result from the confident collaboration between this humanity which manages the inhabited earth and the creation which is the work of God.
Faith in the Kingdom of God is therefore trust in this faithfulness of God which will take over human toil to bring it to maturity, we don’t always know how.
In the face of all the current catastrophes of the world, the presenter of a television programme asked a Christian official from Medicins sans Frontières if he had the impression that God had abandoned his people. And the official replied: « But our role is to do what God cannot do. »
There indeed is our parable of the Kingdom: a man gets up early in the morning to do what God cannot do. But God is there, to give confidence by watching over the grain, and by doing in his turn what human beings cannot do.
This kingdom announced by Jesus is therefore very different from the one which the Jewish world was awaiting. It is quite disappointing in that it does not transform the world at a single stroke and does not proclaim the arrival of a triumphant Messiah.
We do not have to dream and take refuge in surrealist hopes. The Kingdom is built each morning when we go to look after the earth, sowing the seeds at our disposal and having faith in this creator God that he will make it grow until the harvest.
Let us learn how to marvel at all that God does, beyond our humble toil.
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