Homily for Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Year B: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Ps 92; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

St. Lars Catholic Church, Uppsala (English Mass)


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The “Kingdom of God” is a central concept in teachings of Jesus. However, the Greek word used in the original texts of the Gospels, “basilei”’, means not only “realm”, but literally “monarchy”. To understand the meaning conveyed by Biblical words also today, we need to understand what they meant when they were spoken and written, i.e., what the sender was referring to and the listeners understood.

If it were the other way around – i.e., that our contemporary perception of Biblical words determines their spiritual meaning – the “kingdom” Jesus proclaims would be a constitutional government with the monarch as a community symbol without real power, cutting ribbons and saying nice things on the National Day. That is viz. the meaning of a “kingdom” today, where we don’t listen to the king to understand the direction of society’s development and our lives. Instead, it is the elected politicians and the public opinions who exercise power.

This is not what Jesus means when he labels God’s eternal reign as a “kingdom”. In the historical context where God’s eternal word made man, Jesus Christ, physically talked, “kingdom” meant absolute monarchy, where everything belongs to the king, is there for the king, and is subject to the king’s commandments.

Hence, the Kingdom of God is an order where everything belongs to God and is called to serve God. Where God is the centre of, the value scale for assessing, everything else. This order was rejected at the Fall of the first humans but re-established by Christ. If it makes me feel uneasy that everything in my life belongs to and ought to serve God’s and not my purposes, including e.g., how I vote and what I do in my bedroom – just like much of what Jesus said made many listeners uneasy – I should really prick up my ears. Because that, which is sinful in us reacts with uneasiness when God truly speaks in “our time” and reminds us that he is more “relevant” for our salvation than anything else.

Our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel used imagery for how God raises the Messiah, his chosen saviour of the world, from the people of Israel, set aside by a covenant for God’s ultimate purpose: to enter the world and make a covenant with people of all nations.

When the text describes the shrinking and withering of the big trees compared to the one that first looked low – a symbol for the unborn child in the womb of a virgin in a distant corner of the Roman Empire – it reminds that salvation to eternal life never comes from things that in our eyes seem impressive, e.g., political ideologies, economic, social or technological progress or idols, “influencers”. But only from the one who himself is the fulfilment both of God’s promises to and through Israel, and of Israel’s promise to God: to see God as their King, whose will – the absolute truth and love – we humans are called to do, for our own good and the good of all creation.

The Kingdom of God, God’s reign, matures, as Jesus explained in the Gospel, from something small and insignificant to something more present, to be fulfilled and perfected by God beyond space and time. By helping us see this development, Jesus teaches us never to limit our hope and points out that our trust must precede our doing, so that our doing followsfrom our trust.

Jesus speaks both of a person’s development in faith and morals and of the works of his Church, which is not an organization among others, but his mystical body, his remaining and visible presence in the world. Where the teachings of the apostles are preserved, and the sacraments administered as Jesus himself ordered. To provide every age access to the same living faith in the same Christ; Christ as he was and eternally is – and not as we would construct him.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Church of Christ is realized, subsists, in the Catholic Church. Christian communities that have broken away from the Church have changed, and continue to change, faith, morals and sacraments. Basically, one can say, through a contemporary understanding of “kingdom” where the king is a unifying symbol but the shifting individual opinions among people exercise the power of giving directions. That, however, risks confusing God’skingdom with ours.

Everybody, regardless of faith, has something that is the centre of their lives. Something they obey, i.e., listen to, act and order their lives according to. Today, we imagine that we are autonomous and thus make this very idea the highest value, which everything we have and do wants to realize, preserve and nourish. But things depended upon our individual achievements finally fall victim to our human limitations. What remains is hopelessness.

In the Kingdom of God, a heart obeys God out of trust and love. By faith that God, who created us, loved us into existence, knows better than us what is best for us, and lovingly expresses it through the unchanging faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

If I, or you, or even an individual bishop or cardinal, would hear God say something to us contrary to what he is saying through the faith of the Church through all time, what we call the deposit of faith, the individual experience is mistaken. It isn’t then God, but one’s own opinion, speaking in one’s mind. God viz. cannot have one message in the Church and another, speaking against himself, in us.

This insight is the first, basic part of Christian humility. It calls us back from the Kingdom of the Ego to the Kingdom of God. Where each of us through a personal relationship with God in Christ, helped by the grace of the sacraments, make use of our free will to increasingly order everything in our lives “intent on pleasing him as the second reading from Second Corinthians described the overall goal of a Christian life. So that more of that we think, say and do will express the value scale of the Eternal King, our only centre, the only one we want to worship and thus serve.

When this becomes uncomfortable for us, and God allows the spiritual war between his kingdom and the Kingdom of the Ego or the World to be noticeable within us, God tries to cultivate us in the virtues of his kingdom, to make us understand that we must rely on God’s help, not on ourselves, to embrace more and more of his will. We are always given new chances as long as we exist in time. The Lord’s restoration after every failure is only a confession away.

Dear friends, the little seed of divine life planted in us in Baptism will grow with every restoring and nourishing reception of God’s grace in Jesus Christ through the other sacraments, and if we cooperate – our only task – the tree growing from the seed will take more space in us and therethrough in the world. So that we, as prophesized in today’s responsorial psalm, “will flourish”, bear “fruit” and remain “full of sap”, always “green”. Amen.