Work to grow the Kingdom of God within us

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Philip Tay, OCD

Jun 15, 2024

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24;
2 Corinthians 5:6-10;
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34

St Augustine tells us that our hearts are restless until it rests in God, but how many of us feel that way? We live in an age where we are told that the restlessness in our hearts is caused by not having enough things in our lives. Whatever social media platform we log on to, we will be continuously bombarded by advertisements telling us what we need. All we need to do is go to an online shopping platform and browse for any item and before we know it, advertisements for such products will appear in our social media feeds.

There are many who, in the pursuit of fulfilment, will do anything to find it. We hear stories of happiness gurus and the countless self-help books telling us what we already know. If all these means can help people find fulfilment, then why are there people who are still searching despite consulting all these mediums? Perhaps the answer lies in the composition of the human person.

In the secular world, the human body comprises of just the body and the mind. Both affect and complement one another so that we can function and live our lives to the best of our ability. However, the Church teaches us that we have another component, which is the soul. Of course, since the soul is not visible or measurable, its existence cannot be proved. It is only by faith that we believe in its existence. We also believe that it was God who created us in His image and likeness and He is the one who gave us our souls. Following this line of reasoning, we are all made up of body, mind and soul and whatever happens to one affects the other.

Since the soul is given by God, deep within us there is this yearning to be united to God and this is what St Augustine meant. How many of us truly understand and listen to this yearning of our souls? Very often, we mistake this yearning to be the yearning for created things. Our bodies, which are physical, yearn for what is physical, it yearns to please our senses while our souls yearn to be with God. This constant tug-o-war causes our minds to be divided. This division causes us to be confused with what can fulfil us and make us truly joyful.

St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians tells us clearly that to live in the body means to be exiled from the Lord and the opposite is what we yearn for – to be exiled from the body and make our home with the Lord. The one important note that he makes is that whatever position we take, we should be intent on pleasing the Lord and no one else. It is only when we conform ourselves fully – body, mind and soul – to that of Christ, that we can find fulfilment in our lives. We can never be completely and perfectly fulfilled or happy while on this earth because that can only be found in heaven.

While still on this earth, we can do our part in allowing the kingdom of God to grow within us. Jesus tells us two parables on how this happens and both involve the planting of seeds. When we plant seeds, we do not know how a small seed can grow into a large tree but we know that in order for it to grow, we need to nurture and provide for its growth. We water it, make sure there is enough sunlight and shade and occasionally we put manure in it.

The same applies to the kingdom of God within us. We need to ensure that our souls are properly fed so that it will grow into a beautiful tree. We nurture this seed with prayer and frequenting the Sacraments. These are the things that can fulfil the soul and if the soul is fulfilled and at peace, the body and the mind will follow suit. However, we will not feel fulfilled constantly because of the continuous battle between the body and the soul. This is why we frequent the Sacraments because it gives us the strength to face the temptations of our flesh. We are in the world but we should not live as if we belong to the world, because we truly belong to God and no one else.

We may feel that the seed of our faith is small but as Jesus pointed out, the small mustard seed can grow into the biggest tree of all. All we need to do is to nurture that seed and entrust its growth to God. On our part, all we need to do is to protect it from the attractions of this world.

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