The “explosion” of the Kingdom

The “explosion” of the Kingdom

Jesus gives us the good news of the Kingdom where everybody is summoned, regardless of one’s capacities. The time of Advent can be favourable to expand our hearts to accept this immeasurable gift from God.

Reading: Matthew 11:11-15

This homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. Listen here or read below:

It is no surprise that Jesus praises John the Baptist in such an emphatic way. It is not every day that a baby recognises the Son of God with a dance of rejoicing – as John did at the visit of Mary while he was still in his mother’s womb. Even more extraordinary, none of the prophets before him could see the fulfilment of their preaching – as John did proclaiming the Kingdom of God present amongst us in the person of Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth. Furthermore, we know that John was virtuous, faithful, poor, frugal, authoritative, honest, free-spirited and passionate. Well, who of us could keep up with him?

However, as we know, Jesus likes to “turn the tables”. Indeed, he affirms, ‘he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Mt 11:11). The Kingdom preached by Jesus and mainly embraced by every kind of sinners – by prostitutes and tax collectors – must have an essential quality that moulds radically the people who believe in the Good News of the Gospel. And what is this quality whose newness and power can make the worst people better, and transform the most unworthy people into the most honourable of history?

We tend to assess other people and ourselves according to one’s skills. Even more often, nowadays, the vital criterion is the ability to be productive, according to a utilitarian viewpoint. Many people are unsatisfied and lack self-esteem. More than half of 16–24-year-olds are not really self-confident in the UK and often worry about what others think of them. We frequently evaluate our lives just according to our achievements, skills, or even our claim to be particularly holy! When this weak self-motivation drives a human life, it can run aground like a ship when some inevitable failures occur…

On the contrary, the good news of the Kingdom enables us to base our lives on a definitely more stable identity. This identity is the new quality God provides for us. Indeed, ‘now we are children of God’ (1Jn 3:1), and ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Rm 5:5). Even if our achievements can be obviously real and good, the quality of our lives no longer need to depend on them. The new criterion in the Kingdom of God is the boundless gift of love in Jesus Christ, and our unconditional acceptation of this precious gift.

All the spiritual life –particularly the time of Advent we are living- can be seen as the process by which we open our hearts to accept this gift more and more. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prompts us to listen to his message – ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Mt 11:15). Also, we can understand the cryptical verses about the role of violence in the Kingdom positively. Accordingly, the men of violence who take the Kingdom by force (Mt 11, 12) are those who expand their hearts to flee away from their narrow-minded lifestyle, embarking on the adventure of a new life with God.

This opportunity of change is at hand now more than ever. Another possible translation of verse 12 is: ‘The Kingdom has been come violently’ (Mt 11, 12). And this “violence” alludes in the original text to the violence of an explosion. We can say that the Kingdom has blown up in our world through Jesus, and it’s up to us to be involved in this new life. The “explosion of the Kingdom” is like a new Big Bang, from which a new world comes to life. It is the new world where God wishes to live with his children for ever!

We do not have to be as perfect as John the Baptist to accept this gift from God. Let us remember that even John doubted when he was in prison, and asked if Jesus was really the Messiah who was to come. Our weaknesses, and even our doubts, can be the starting point of a true profession of faith, not based on our presumed goodness but entirely entrusted to God’s creative love for each of us.

Br Giovanni Castellano was born in Italy in 2000. He attended high school in his small town in Sicily, and then he joined the Order of Preachers in the Province of St Thomas Aquinas, in southern Italy. After one year of postulancy, he entered the noviciate in 2020. He is now living in Oxford, where he is beginning his first year at Blackfriars Studium. Before becoming a friar, he enjoyed travelling a lot, and so is it now, as well! In his free time, he likes reading good books and spending time with old and new friends.

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