“This is how it is with the kingdom of God”

Today we re-enter Ordinary Time and the wearing of the Green. We had six weeks of Rose and Purple, ten weeks of White, and a brief week of Red.

Driving out to the Seminary and the Men’s Retreat was so refreshing. The land alive with growth, and on beautiful green display.

Holy Church uses green to convey a call to growth in our Kingdom citizenship. Not only that, it dedicates the majority of the weeks of the year, twenty-five in all in our Church, to growing.

In a beautiful way the call to growth is made imperative in today’s readings and gospel. Let’s look at that call.

In our first reading Ezekiel proclaims God’s promises of hope. He will restore Israel and plant it securely to grow and prosper. What had been broken and withered, reduced to nothing, will live again.

God likens Israel to the tender shoot from the top of the Cedar. We may not necessarily find cedars around us, but almost all types of evergreens put out tender shoots. Even the prickliest ones produce bright green, soft, fragrant shoots.

In Ezekiel, God does as He promises. The imperative things, that is the vitally important and crucial things authoritatively commanded, God Himself carries out. Israel had no power to restore itself, no army or political power. Israel is ‘new.’ So, out of His tremendous love and forgiveness, He will re-establish them. The imperative is from God and done by God.

Jesus Who came to usher in the Kingdom changes things up for us. Using nature and growth we see a different imperative. The focus is now on us.

God has scattered the seed – what we covered in the past few weeks – His sacraments and the depth of His Word given us, He has implanted in us by Jesus and has given us a place to dwell, His Holy Church, symbolized by the mustard bush the largest of plants with large branches, where the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.

As Jesus states: Of its own accord the land yields fruit. The imperative remains from God but now it must be done by us. Growth in ourselves and in the Kingdom is dependent on us. We must yield fruit.

So, we are to grow ourselves: our sanctification growth into the image of God filled with complete self-giving love. We are to evangelize, to draw people into the Kingdom. It is imperative!

God has overlooked the time of ignorance, but now He demands that all people everywhere repent. 

Today we hear the account of the start of Jesus’ public ministry from St. Mark. We heard the account from St. John last week.

As you may recall, we did a bit of a riff on the age-old group dance, the Hokey-Pokey, wherein we were urged to put our whole selves in and to not just leave them there, but to get to work announcing God’s Kingdom. To be active in calling others for the Lord.

Our active engagement follows the model which we heard in the gospel: Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus, as he consistently does, wastes no time. His mission was urgent and His time limited. So is ours. We have much to do for God.

In our readings and gospel, we see people responding exactly that way. They drop everything to do as God asks. The people of Nineveh repent. Paul urges the Corinthians to focus on Kingdom tasks and not to be distracted by anything else. The people Jesus calls respond by leaving the worldly behind to focus on the work of the Kingdom, to be “fishers of men.”

In each of these cases there is an urgency that the people get. In the aha moment they are saying: ‘I get it, I must do this now. No time to delay. Nothing else is important.’

I would like to focus a bit on our Alleluia verse because it wraps this all up very well. 

The verse comes from Acts 17:30. Paul is in Athens, not one of his most successful missionary journeys. Yet on a hill near the Acropolis which was a public meeting place he calls people to Jesus and speaks of Jesus’ promised resurrection. He speaks of God’s demand on them.

Paul, like always, is being bold and the people, like those nowadays, want nothing to do with a God Who has demands. In fact, we can practically hear them whispering – who is this God to demand anything of me! Even among those who were kind of receptive their response speaks volumes: “We should like to hear you on this some other time.”

God does overlook the past, but once we are converted, have come to faith in Jesus, He places a demand on us, to announce the kingdom and bring people to repentance and salvation. ‘I get it, I must do this now. No time to delay. Nothing else is important.’

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Welcome as we enter the second week of our new Church year and this Advent.

Last week, Prime Bishop elaborated on Advent as a transitional time between a focus on the last things, being ready for Jesus’ return at the end of time and our need for personal preparation right now so we may best welcome Jesus anew into our lives.

As St. Paul noted in our Epistle last week, we are prepared for this task of readiness by the enriching grace we have in our knowledge of Jesus. Paul reminded us that we have this time to focus on what we have learned about Jesus and the opportunity to put that knowledge into action.

This week calls us deeper into the active engagement we are to have as the people of Christ – Christians. Today, Peter sets the stage regarding the kind of people we are to be, a people: conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.

Now it may occur to us – how do we hasten God along? Besides what we might think, it is the actual work we are to do in building the Kingdom of God so the saying Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus will come to fruition.

We build the Kingdom by this: taking action that contributes to the purposes of God here and now, in our community, among friends, family, and coworkers. Among the many Kingdom building actions we need to engage in are: Evangelism: bringing people into the kingdom; Benevolence: showing the love of God to others through our charity and kindness; Having godly relationships that show the reality of the kingdom by example.; Encouraging love and good deeds; Building up knowledge of God by study, reading of scripture, and practice; Regular worship; Carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; and… Doing all in the Name of the Lord, being dedicated to Him.

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that fruition is the point at which a plan or project is realized and the action of producing fruit occurs. Indeed, Advent is about that. The Blessed Virgin carries within her the fruitfulness that will save us all. So too, like John we must go out and proclaim a fruitful message: Prepare yourselves, Christ is in our midst, and He waits for you. Join me in knowing Him.