Sunday Scriptures

Are We People of Justice, Peace and Joy?

by Father John P. Cush

FOR THE PAST few weeks, we have been proclaiming the Gospel from the 13th chapter of the Evangelist Matthew. Today we conclude this Gospel which has given us so much on which to reflect during these hazy days of summer.
Jesus continues His use of parables to get His message about the Kingdom of God across to us. Recalling that the Kingdom of God is more than simply an earthly dominion, but primarily a heavenly reign, we are acutely aware that it is the Lord’s initiative to bring the Kingdom to fruition in this world. Nothing that we can do, in and of ourselves can bring forth the Kingdom of God. However, we can cooperate with the will of God and thus, in our own way, bring God’s Kingdom to a gradual in-breaking, a forthcoming indwelling every single day.
Having discussed the Kingdom of God at length over the past two Sundays, we might expect Jesus to give us today a clear definition of the Kingdom of God. Nothing, however, can be further from the truth. Jesus never comes out in any of the Gospels with a direct statement of exactly what the Kingdom of God is or is not.
Jesus only speaks of the Kingdom of God in simile (which the high school English teacher in me shouts out to remind you that a simile is a figure of speech that indirectly compares two different things by employing the words “like,” “as,” or “than”). Notice in today’s Gospel He uses the following similes: like a treasure buried in a field; like a merchant searching for fine pearls. like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.
Why would Jesus never, ever speak directly as to the definition of the Kingdom of God? I suspect this is the case because the Kingdom of God is always more than we could ever ask for or imagine! Wisdom, true understanding, like we learn about in today’s first reading from 1 Kings, comes from knowing that we are not the Lord; God is God, we are not, and thank God for that! I know that I constantly mention this, but I truly believe that this first act of self-surrender is among the truest acts of self-understanding to which we could come.
The only quasi-definition that we receive for the Kingdom of God comes not from any Gospel, but from the epistle we have been proclaiming over the past several weeks: St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
Values Of the Kingdom
In this incredibly important epistle, St. Paul gives us his basic theological perspective. In a much later part of the letter from what we read today, Romans 14:17, we hear that “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but that of peace, justice and joy.” Notice that this “definition” does its function, by declaring what the Kingdom of God is not, rather than what it is.
By declaring the Kingdom of God to not be a matter of eating and drinking, what does St. Paul mean? He means that it is not a matter of the things of this world, but of the world to come. We might wish to perceive peace, justice and joy as the values of the Kingdom. So, with this in mind, are we good citizens of the Kingdom of God?
Do we live out these values of peace, justice and joy in our daily lives? Are we bearers of grudges against some in our lives? It is perhaps the most difficult thing that we might be called to do, but have we tried, in all the situations of our lives, to be instruments of the Lord’s peace?
Are we people of justice, true justice in the world? Remember, this means establishing true and real equity once again in the world, not revenge. To avenge means to attempt to get even. That is not justice, which is giving every person his or her due.
Are we people of joy? Remember that joy is always being happy. Joy is the sure and certain knowledge that we are loved by God, that we are redeemed by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We are called to rejoice in the truth that is Jesus, even in times when we despair in the world. Being a person of joy is ultimately realizing the truth of the words of today’s epistle:
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
A basic definition of the Kingdom of God is “God is powerfully reigning in our lives.” Please God, this is the case for all of us! May we permit His kingdom to come, His will to be done in our lives!

Readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Romans 8: 28-30  Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

Father John Cush teaches English and theology at Cathedral Prep Seminary, Elmhurst, where he also serves as spiritual director and director of development and alumni affairs.