One of the hymns at Mass today was, Rejoice and be glad: yours is the Kingdom of God.
I couldn’t help thinking about Jesus and visualized him as he delivered this astounding message to the poor about, of all things, a kingdom!
I picture him as an idealistic, enthusiastic and brilliant young man, full of compassion. He has recently experienced a baptism by another holy man and has heard the unmistakable message of approval from the heavenly Father. He’s about to select a handful of men who will help him spread his teachings of the Kingdom to many others.
He is ready. Even while working full-time as a craftsman, he has studied sacred Scripture, prayed over it, and has been given to understand its deepest secrets. These “secrets,” however, are not to be withheld from the poor and uneducated. They only need his tender talents to explain, in down-to-earth terms, the noblest mysteries of the Divinity.
Along with Jesus’ teaching abilities are his God-given powers to heal the sick in body and mind. Such power gives credence to his astounding lessons on how to enter the Kingdom of peace and love. For while the lessons are not difficult to understand, they’re mostly the very opposite of what people have been taught.
Jesus must think to himself: how can I present these teachings in such a way that unscholarly people can understand?
Then, after more prayer, he realizes that the poor and the simple have much in common with one another, and that focusing on what they have in common will be the way to teach them. He therefore devises skillful parables where the situations and characters illustrate (sometimes negatively) the kind of behaviors that prepare them to enter the kingdom: stories of masters forgiving slaves, of slaves not forgiving co-workers. Of men working throughout the day, only to see others getting the same payment after just a few hours of labor. About buying a field where hidden treasures were found by accident. About a woman relentlessly pleading with a judge for justice.
Jesus has lived and worked with people for years and knows that many of them really have a sincere desire to do what God wills. But they’ve been given so many rules that they can hardly remember all 600-plus of them. They already have so much on their minds just to provide the basics for themselves and their families. Nonetheless, religious leaders have taught them that failure to obey the Law would lead to their expulsion from the temple, their only hope for salvation.
An almost endless workday prevents them from studying the scriptures and the law. Not to mention the other unending problems: illness in the family; their own illness; dealing with the many who want to cheat them; dealing with the many who simply hate them for a variety of reasons or for no reason at all.
Too many problems. Too many laws. Is there any way to get out of this maze, to find a clear path to peace?
- What is God’s will? Which are the most important laws?
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said [in reply], “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
- How do I decide whether to obey a law or to give help where needed?
Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
- How do I treat people who are just miserable to deal with?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”
- How can I ever atone for my sins?
People brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
- How can I find true peace?
“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”
Rivers of living water . . .
Jesus, who wants all to be with him in the Kingdom, has eased the path for them and for us: I am the way, the truth and the life.