In this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that “becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade”. This rich metaphor helps us to understand that the kingdom of God is not as we may sometimes think: simply a place or a way of life. I often say this—perhaps, with annoying repetition. But, it is true! The kingdom of God is the King reigning, Jesus loving, and inviting and welcoming us (in)to everlasting life.
In speaking of this great shrub that is the kingdom of God, St. Jerome (+420) says that “the boughs which it puts forth are those of mercy and compassion.” The gracious welcome by Jesus, the King, to everlasting life is wide and large. There is room for all of us birds, birds of every species, to rest safely, to build a nest, on the boughs of mercy and compassion.
If Christ’s welcome of us is wide and large, how ought we to welcome one another? “Love one another as I love you” (John 13:34) can be translated “Welcome one another as I welcome you. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the quality of our hospitality with respect to one another directly impacts the quality of our relationship with Christ. Those around us in the pews are not pious décor. They are sisters and brothers who, by virtue of such a bond, have a “right” to my heart. Let us bear this in mind. Indeed, may the Holy Spirit continue to teach us how to open our hearts. And, may this openness of heart be manifest: greeting the new person at church, volunteering for a church event, visiting someone in need, smiling at the cashier at the grocery store, spending quality time with a loved one, or myriad other ways. Let us rest assured as we seek to grow in divine love that, as Jesus promises (John 14:26), “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything”.
Yours in the same Spirit,