What is the kingdom of heaven? How is the kingdom of God found? and How is the kingdom of God possessed? asks Pope Francis in his homily at Caserta. Jesus doesn’t bother to explain it… He rather points to seeing the consequences of the Kingdom.
The homily continues…
He states from the beginning of his Gospel: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”. And also today He is near and among us … He is near. However, he never makes one see it straight away, but always as a consequence, narrating the actions of a master, of a king, of ten virgins …
He prefers to let us understand, in parables and similes, and above all by revealing their effects: the kingdom of heaven is capable of changing the world, like yeast hidden in the dough.
It is small and humble, like a mustard seed, but becomes as large as a tree.
The two parables on which we want to reflect make us understand that the kingdom of God makes itself present in the very person of Jesus. He is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. It encompasses the joy of the peasant and the merchant: they found it! It is the joy of all of us when we discover the closeness and the presence of Jesus in our lives – a presence that transforms our lives and makes us sensitive to the needs of our brothers; a presence that invites us to accept each other’s presence, including those who are foreigners and immigrants. He is a welcoming presence, a joyful presence, a fruitful presence, and so it becomes in us.
And then one might ask: How is the kingdom of God found?
Each of us has a particular path. For some, the encounter with Jesus is awaited, desired, long sought after, as is shown in the parable of the merchant. For others it happens suddenly, almost by accident, as in the parable of the peasant.
This reminds us that God lets Himself be found, because it is He who first wants to meet us, and first tries to meet us. He came to be “God with us.” And Jesus is with us, He is here today. “When you come together in my name, I am with you.” The Lord is here, with us, among us. It is He who seeks us and makes Himself discoverable, even for those who do not seek him. Sometimes He lets Himself be found in unusual places and unexpected times. When Jesus is discovered, one is fascinated, conquered, and it is a joy to leave our usual way of life, sometimes dry and apathetic, to embrace the Gospel, to be guided by the new logic of love and of humble and disinterested service.
The Word of Jesus, the Gospel. Let me ask you a question, but I do not want you to raise your hands [laughs]: How many of you each day read a passage from the Gospel? But how many of you, perhaps, hasten to finish work to not miss a soap opera … Have the Gospel in your hands. Have the Gospel on the table. Have the Gospel in your bag. Have the Gospel in your pocket and open it to read the Word of Jesus, so the Kingdom of God comes. Contact with the Word of Jesus brings us closer to the Kingdom of God. Think about it: a small Gospel always at hand, open it to a random page, and read what Jesus says, and Jesus is there.
How is the kingdom of God possessed? On this point, Jesus is very clear: enthusiasm, the joy of discovery, is not enough. The precious pearl of the kingdom should precede every other earthly good; we must put God first in our lives, prefer Him to everything. Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, living a life of service to others and in favor of the law and the common good. When a person finds God, the true treasure, they leave a selfish lifestyle and look to share with others the love that comes from God.
See the full text of the homily at Caserta.