If we recall Isaiah’s imagination about the Reign of God which often comes up during the Advent season, we remember that among the created order there will no longer be predator and prey (“the lion will lie down with the lamb”). All needs for survival will be allayed eternally because they are entirely met by the perception of God’s presence (beatific vision). In the current incomplete stage of the Kingdom among us (the “already inaugurated but not yet completed”) the created order imitates Jesus’ kenosis - self out-pouring - to provide for the needs of all the rest of creation. When we understand that our ultimate “salvation” is about giving ourselves away to accomplish God’s desire, then we enable the rest of creation to be saved along with us. In other words we won’t be sitting around in airless chambers plucking virtual harps or whatever – we will be living in a resurrected version of the created order. The hitch of course is “resurrected version” – we have no idea what that will be like – except to HOPE that it will be delightful, glorious and peaceful (but not static) beyond our wildest imagination.
So will my dogs be with me in the fullness of the Kingdom? They certainly know how to wait with eager expectation my return at the end of the day – I suspect they could wait with great patience the fullness of God’s reign that humans cooperate in bringing about for them. They have already evolved from being prey toward humans to being partners in our fully humane living – and if biologists understand rightly, this happened in very short order in evolutionary terms – so is it not to be expected that God plans for them to enjoy the fruit of this development and self-donation in the on-going development of the Kingdom?
The Gospel for today reminds us that God plants the seed of the Kingdom in the soil of our human hearts – and invites us to wait patiently for its growth into maturity. Such growth is nurtured by our collaboration in the “farming project” by kneading the dough or hoeing around the roots of the mustard plant (a bush large enough to be a small tree) – to give it room to grow in us, but it is ultimately God’s work.
For me today, on this late autumn day in the northern hemisphere when the harvest is being gathered and the darkness is growing around me, the readings challenge me to patience, to cooperation in God’s plan: slow as it might seem to be and even impossible to detect. Above all I am called to hope. In the midst of the growing darkness, both physical and political/social with the impasses of war, poverty, political wrangling and a host of other human intransigence, we can’t SEE the work of God’s reign growing and coming to fullness very well – if at all! At such times, I think of watching our trio of dogs waiting patiently when there seems to be no reason to wait, for my husband to arrive home. As they wait without seeing or hearing, they offer me a symbol of the wait I must endure with all of creation for the resurrection of our bodies – in HOPE, Paul says, not in sight or certainty.
“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Mtt 11.25, Gospel acclamation for today).
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