Proclaiming the Kingdom

Elephant optical illusion invertedThe Luminous Mysteries each have a distinct way of pointing to Christ as the Messiah. Declaration at Jesus’ baptism, transformation at the Cana wedding feast, proclamation at all of Jesus’ discourses, transfiguration on the mount and transubstantiation at the institution of the Eucharist, each reveal, in varying ways, that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. Perhaps the most direct approach taken in these mysteries is found in the proclamation of the kingdom. It is Jesus himself that teaches us about the kingdom, not by actions as in the other mysteries but by explanation; by His words. Yet, as direct as this method is, Jesus chooses parables, metaphors and similes to get His message across. The reason for using parables Jesus explained is that “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you [the twelve disciples]; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.” (Luke 8:10) While this certainly reinforces the teaching authority of the Church, since those who do not understand must look to the disciples for instruction, there is something even deeper to be grasped. In these discourses Jesus is describing first hand what the kingdom is like. Since the kingdom is Jesus, He is describing Himself to us; He is explaining in human terms what His divine nature is like.

Can man understand the deep things of God? Can man know what heaven is like while on earth? Jesus seems to think we can get an idea of it and he describes His kingdom by appealing to our emotions rather than our senses, the way we experience the rest of reality. We can’t know what heaven looks like, sounds like, smells like, tastes or what it is like to touch but we can get a sense of what the Kingdom of God feels like in an emotional sense. Jesus does not seem interested in giving us pieces of a puzzle that we have to assemble in order to get a bigger picture. If we tried that we would have a very surreal looking image that would probably be far from accurate. Take for instance the images from the Old Testament and prophets; a six winged cherubim flying God around and covering His face and feet, creatures covered with eyes having wheels on the ground and having four faces; lion, ox, eagle and man (Ezekiel 1:4-28). From Revelation there are images of a slain lamb, scrolls and seals, bowls, incense, lamp stands, a dragon, a woman giving birth, beasts from land and sea etc. If one is being honest in visualizing these things they are quite freaky and don’t seem to fit with a utopian landscape. In fact if we were to attempt to collage or composite these images we might find the conglomeration to be as mistaken as the reports from the blind men experiencing an elephant for the first time – from John Godfrey Saxe’s famous poem:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried,
-“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen!

(Incidentally, it never made much sense why the blind men in the poem only report their experience of the elephant in terms of touch. Did none of them smell it, or hear it?)

So what is the kingdom of heaven like if it is not entirely accurate to say that it is like all these images which the Bible describes? Jesus says it is like innocence (Matthew 19:13-15), justice (Matthew 20:1-16), perfection (Matthew 5:44-45), joy (Luke 15:4-6), mercy and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). It may be that Jesus describes the kingdom this way so He will instill in us a longing for the kingdom of heaven. If we truly desire His kingdom and act upon that desire then He will make saints of us in the long run. By desiring Christ’s Kingdom we desire Him. Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father are the fitting end to our hearts desire. It is the reason why we have free will; so that we can freely choose to Love God. In this sense the kingdom discourses are wooing. They are passionate love stories that draw man closer to God.

Luke 8:10
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
10To whom he said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand.
Ezekiel 1:4-28
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
4And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber:
5And in the midst thereof the likeness of four living creatures: and this was their appearance: there was the likeness of a man in them.
6Every one had four faces, and every one four wings.
7Their feet were straight feet, and the sole of their foot was like the sole of a calf's foot, and they sparkled like the appearance of glowing brass.
8And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides: and they bad faces, and wings on the four sides,
9And the wings of one were joined to the wings of another. They turned not when they went: but every one went straight forward.
10And as for the likeness of their faces: there was the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four: and the face of an ox, on the left side of all the four: and the face of an eagle over all the four.
11And their faces, and their wings were stretched upward: two wings of every one were joined, and two covered their bodies:
12And every one of them went straight forward: whither the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went: and they turned not when they went.
13And as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like that of burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps. This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire, and lightning going forth from the fire.
14And the living creatures ran and returned like flashes of lightning.
15Now as I beheld the living creatures, there appeared upon the earth by the living creatures one wheel with four faces.
16And the appearance of the wheels, and the work of them was like the appearance of the sea: and the four had all one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the midst of a wheel.
17When they went, they went by their four parts: and they turned not when they went.
18The wheels had also a size, and a height, and a dreadful appearance: and the whole body was full of eyes round about all the four.
19And when the living creatures went, the wheels also went together by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels also were lifted up with them.
20Whithersoever the spirit went, thither as the spirit went the wheels also were lifted up withal, and followed it: for the spirit of life was in the wheels.
21When those went these went, and when those stood these stood, and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels also were lifted up together, and followed them: for the spirit of life was in the wheels.
22And over the heads of the living creatures was the likeness of the firmament, as the appearance of crystal terrible to behold, and stretched out over their heads above.
23And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other, every one with two wings covered his body, and the other was covered in like manner.
24And I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, as it were the voice of the most high God: when they walked, it was like the voice of a multitude, like the noise of an army, and when they stood, their wings were let down.
25For when a voice came from above the firmament, that was over their heads, they stood, and let down their wings.
26And above the firmament that was over their heads, was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of the sapphire stone, and upon the likeness of the throne, was a likeness as of the appearance of a man above upon it.
27And I saw as it were the resemblance of amber as the appearance of fire within it round about: from his loins and upward, and from his loins downward, I saw as it were the resemblance of fire shining round about.
28As the appearance of the rainbow when it is in a cloud on a rainy day: this was the appearance of the brightness round about.
Matthew 19:13-15
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
13Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them.
14But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such.
15And when he had imposed hands upon them, he departed from thence.
Matthew 20:1-16
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
1The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
2And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3And going about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle.
4And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.
5And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.
6But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle?
7They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard.
8And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.
9When therefore they were come, that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny.
11And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house,
12Saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.
13But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?
14Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee.
15Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good?
16So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
Matthew 5:44-45
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
44But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you:
45That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.
Luke 15:4-6
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
4What man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it?
5And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing:
6And coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost?
Matthew 18:21-35
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
21Then came Peter unto him and said: Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22Jesus saith to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times.
23Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants.
24And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talents.
25And as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt.
28But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest.
29And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.
31Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done.
32Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me:
33Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?
34And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt.
35So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

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