A lot of us like to pride ourselves on how open-hearted we are, how we get along with everybody, how we give everyone a fair chance. But look closer and cracks appear in the facade – Well, no I’m not nice to that guy, but that’s because he’s terrible. No, I don’t talk to that person anymore, but she deserves it. In the end, it turns out that we live by the mantra Treat me well and I’ll treat you well, but cross me and we’re gonna have a serious problem – We’re all guilty of it to some degree at least.
The Kingdom of God operates a bit differently. It’s as if a man is scattering seed on the earth and then it mysteriously grows. The Kingdom of God is a living reality, the inclusion of human beings into his divine life. It is an extension of his love. Amazingly, God doesn’t really seem to care where the seed goes. He just scatters it.
I occasionally convince myself that I can make the landscaping look nice. Usually I’m pretty content to let the grass turn brown and die so I don’t have to mow anything and I don’t mind letting some weeds grow here and there, but occasionally I get motivated and try to clean things up and plant something nice, so I go out and get some bags of good compost, I choose the perfect spot, dig a perfect hole, put mulch around the plant, and I water it carefully. That’s not how God would garden. He would go out toss a bunch of seeds around, pray it rains, and go back inside for a cold drink.
It doesn’t matter if a person seems good, or holy, or if they dress the right way, or know enough from the Catechism, or if the are likeable or not. The Kingdom of God is for you, and if you allow heaven to take root in your heart, you will be welcomed and transformed from within. Grace is silent and we often don’t even know when it is at work. To all outward appearances, nothing may be happening. It’s like a seed germinating in soil. For instance, I often go to confession, pour out my wounded little heart…and feel nothing in return. I often say Mass and my feelings are vaguely conventional, I feel neither close nor far from God. Sometimes during adoration, I admit, I’m simply waiting quietly for the hour to be over. This isn’t how it is all the time, but it is enough of the time that I’ve come to realize that grace is beyond my ability to comprehend, because so often we feel so ordinary, and yet at the exact same time God’s grace is working miracles in us. It’s funny, we go around saying “God loves you,” all the time. Very true, and yet, sometimes I think, well okay, that’s not such a big deal because God loves everybody. As the Christian musician Rich Mullins once said about God loving him, “That don’t make me special! That just proves that God has got no taste.” And that’s exactly right! God doesn’t discriminate at all, he scatters the seeds of the Kingdom everywhere.
Or perhaps more accurately, this prodigality of God’s love proves a pretty amazing fact about us. It proves that even at our worst, our most ordinary, we are still pretty special. And we don’t need to compare ourselves to anyone else for that to be true.
I think a lot about that conundrum of how we treat other people. We do tend to treat those we like a lot better. We extend them more benefit of the doubt, do them more favors, forgive them more quickly. But God doesn’t do that, because that’s only halfway towards love. The challenge is to spread it out everywhere, to people who are not grateful, to people who do not like you, people who have made your life harder.
This being Fathers day we have a perfect example. Fathers are men who, and I’m stereotyping you guys but just go with it, here, Fathers often quietly go about their business without a whole lot of emotion or a whole lot of introspection. They have these kids, these messy, crazy, time-consuming little whirlwinds. They live in a mental asylum surrounded by inmates that they have created themselves. Dads don’t worry too much about what they’re receiving in return from their children. They simply love them, whether they’re behaving good or bad. They protect them, and provide for them. Those children may never be able to repay him, but Dad doesn’t care. Maybe this is why God chooses to reveal himself to us as Father. He doesn’t love us because we deserve it. He loves us because we are his children.
Heavenly Father, may we grow into your image.