O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Proper 12-A                  Gen 29:15-28; Rom 8:26-39; Mt 13:31-33, 44-52

St Martin of Tours                                                        Fr. Joseph Neiman


Theme: “The kingdom of heaven is like….” (Mt 13:31)

What is “the kingdom of heaven” and what does it have to do with you and me in 21st century America? That’s the question which comes to mind after hearing this morning’s Gospel in which we are presented with five short parables. “The kingdom of heaven is like” 1) a mustard seed, 2) yeast, 3) treasure hidden in a field, 4) a pearl of great value, and 5) a fish net full of fish.

After presenting these parables, Matthew tells us Jesus asked the crowd which had been following him listening to these, “Have you understood all this?” They answered “Yes” (Mt 13:31). Then Matthew tells us that Jesus went to his hometown, Nazareth, and taught in a similar fashion in their synagogue. We’re told they “were astounded” but after recalling that they knew Jesus since he was a child and they knew his family, “they took offense at him” and so “he did not do many deeds of power these, because of their unbelief” (Mt 13:51-58).

Let’s reflect on “the kingdom of heaven” and see if we are like the enthusiastic crowd or like Jesus’ doubting neighbors who could not experience the power of the loving Lord in their midst.

The key to understanding what is “the kingdom of heaven” is found earlier in the Gospel where Jesus teaches the disciples the Lord’s prayer: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). In the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, David described heaven in the 23rd Psalm as a banquet table overflowing. Isaiah has a similar metaphor in chapter 25 where he speaks of “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines” (Is 25:6), probably from Paw Paw!

Later Matthew tells us Jesus told another parable with illusions to heaven.Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come” (Mt 22:1-3).

In heaven, God’s will prevails, and so it is viewed as a place of blessing, of joy, of the lack of suffering and death, a place and time of celebration like a wedding feast. Heaven is a place of harmony because God’s will rules. So what is God’s will for earth as we pray in the Lord’s prayer?

The internationally known theologian, Hans Kung, says: “From the first to the last page of the Bible, it is clear that God’s will aims at (our) well-being at all levels, aims at (our) definitive and comprehensive good: at the salvation of (all humanity). God’s will is a helpful, healing, liberating, saving will. God wills life, joy, freedom, peace, salvation, the final great happiness of (us): both of the individual and of (humanity) as a whole.[1]

God’s will on earth is for our well-being, our happiness, our salvation. How do we find this well-being? This well-being is not just an intellectual concept, but comes as the result of the actions and life style which we develop in response to God’s will for us.

All too frequently we think of God’s will as expressed in the Ten Commandments. Perhaps you have seen those famous bill boards, like the one which reads: “Which part of ‘thou shalt not” don’t  you understand?” We especially need to recall the God billboard which says: “That “love thy neighbor thing…. I meant it”[2]





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