A Reflection for Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old.” (Mt 13:52)
What a lovely dwelling place will be the Kingdom of heaven, a great welcoming tent of hospitality and abundance drifting across the desert, just out of reach but compelling each step closer to it. The Israelites merely followed that dwelling in today’s first reading (Ex 40:16-21, 34-38). Maybe a lucky thing for many of them. By the time the Kingdom is described by Matthew, it has become, yes, a long-promised dwelling place, but also the site of a last judgment, a final destination for all where the wicked and the good will be measured and disposed of for all time—the good to a paradise and the wicked, well, the less said about that other place the better.
Will the Kingdom be the dwelling place we erect ourselves or a desert vision we in hope pursue?
Ridley Scott used the scriptural phrase to title his 2005 epic “Kingdom of Heaven,” a dramatization of a chaotic and violent time in Jerusalem’s history, as crusaders and saracens traded sword and scimitar blows as the great religions of the world fought over which vision of a divinely peaceable kingdom would prevail in the Holy Land. No doubt “Kingdom” was an ironic choice by Mr. Scott, and indeed the painful ironies abound in his film and in the real history of conflict and cruelty that seems to bedevil the holy city of Jerusalem. Sadly his historical vision of a contested Jerusalem in “Kingdom” is not far off from the reality of today’s disputed city.
Perhaps it is safer to keep a vision of the Kingdom firmly fixed on an otherworldly horizon than to seek out a holy city in the real world. But for many who attempt to make real the tender mercies of the Beatitudes, the Kingdom could be a place here and now, a destination to be reached in the building of it in our own times, and with our eyes and hearts set on mercy and justice.
What is the Kingdom and how do we seek it? Will it be the dwelling place we erect ourselves or a desert vision we in hope pursue? In today’s Scripture, the Christian scribes of Matthew’s time are reminded to bring “from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Perhaps a license for us now to treat more seriously an expansion of ambition in realizing this promised Kingdom of consolation and peace, a resting place for the weary and likely milk and honey enough for all.