Mysteries of the Kingdom

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Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

 

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

 

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come before you today sinful and sorrowful, but also full of hope in your mercy. You spoke in parables to the men and women with whom you walked this earth, but you speak the truth clearly to me through your Church. You are the King of the universe, but you have loved me from all eternity. Give me the grace today to look at the mysteries of your Kingdom and see what you would have me see. 

 

Encountering Christ:

 

  1. Veiled: Jesus began this parable on the Kingdom of God by reminding us that there will be things that occur, but we “know not how.” Perhaps yesterday, in solidarity with the whole Church, you prayed the luminous mysteries of the rosary, meditating for one decade on the Proclamation of the Kingdom. Perhaps you focused on scenes from the Gospel like the one today. Perhaps your mind wandered to mysterious occurrences in your own life or in history. How did a friend or relative beat a serious illness? How did a child manage to maintain their faith in the midst of overwhelming secular influences? How did people survive the Holocaust, or the Rwandan genocide, or the Soviet gulags, and not harbor hatred in their hearts? Max Glauben, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and then six Nazi labor camps, spent time each year of the last decade accompanying young people on a March of the Living, retracing many of his steps from seven decades earlier, recounting his memories and asking others to join his fight to eradicate hatred. One participant once mentioned to him, “You’re the reason I believe in God now.” In our own search for reason and meaning, let us lift the veil on the mysterious, the miraculous, and the mundane, and see where we are being called to a closer encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). 
  2. Bellowing throughout the World: If we were living in thirteenth-century Italy, we “would know not how” Thomas Aquinas could eventually come to be recognized as a doctor of the church. Certainly, looking back, we see the literary genius in such masterpieces as the Summa Theologiae and the Summa Contra Gentiles, along with poems that have become some of our most beautiful eucharistic hymns. While Thomas had been a thoughtful and inquisitive boy and had early on desired an education with the Dominicans, his father had different designs for his son. He imprisoned him for more than a year, intending to dispel his crazy notions of religious life. Thomas finally convinced his mother to let him escape and begin his religious studies, but he was such a quiet and lumbering young man that he was soon nicknamed the “Dumb Ox.” It was, thus, quite the surprise when his instructor, St. Albert the Great, spoke these words: “You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching, he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world.”
  3. From Small Seeds: Researching any kingdom, we might want to study its ruler, its intent, and its extent. In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents an image to us which, on the surface, doesn’t tell us much about these key attributes of a kingdom. However, the brief discussion of a mustard seed’s life cycle, whether we are gardeners or not, is well worth contemplating. Who can discern the smallest of seeds, and who might plant one? The ruler of our Kingdom, Jesus Christ. For what intent would such a small seed be planted? So that it could be nourished to reach its potential. To what extent might this seed expand? Jesus tells us that it will grow surprisingly large and will be a place of safe harbor, of shade and respite from the burning sun. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus compares not the Kingdom but the theological virtue of faith to this same mustard seed: “If you only had faith the size of a mustard seed…” (Matthew 17:20). With a faith sown by Christ himself, with an intent to nourish this faith with prayer and the sacraments, and a willingness to extend this faith to those I encounter, why should we doubt that we can move mountains?

 

Conversing with Christ: Lord, thank you for teaching your disciples, and each of us, the meaning behind the mysteries of your Kingdom. Thank you for instituting your church on the Rock of Peter to safeguard the Mysterium Fidei, and for raising up great saints like Thomas Aquinas to help the faithful grow ever closer to you. 

 

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the rosary with my family, taking time to contemplate each of the mysteries and what they might be saying to me personally.


For Further Reflection: Read St. Thomas Aquinas’s brief reflection on 1 Corinthians 15, entitled “Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God.”

 

Andrew Rawicki and his wife JoAnna live in Irving, Texas, near seven of their nine grandchildren. A convert from Judaism, Andrew entered the Church in 1991 and has been a member of the Regnum Christi spiritual family since 2001. He has served as the Regnum Christi Local Director for Dallas since July 2020.

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