Holy Cross + Santa Cruz
June 25, 2023
And Jesus taught His disciples saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a
mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller
than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden
plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its. The
kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks
of flour until it was all leavened. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure
hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he
goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven
is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great
value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:31-43, 44-46
Life is filled with challenging moments. For Madre and I, and for this parish community, this is one of those moments. We have spent some years journeying together. Madre and I see these years as a gift. And we want to say thank you for your having shared your lives, in their joys and in their sorrows, in their hopes, and in their fears, and your abiding faith in Jesus Christ with us. We want to thank you for opening your hearts and minds to receive us with our strengths and limitations. We want to thank you for having allowed us to share with you the vision of Jesus proclaimed in the gospel as the Kingdom of God. Our drawing more closely together in mutual respect, compassion, and love for each other, and our engaged and committed service to the wider community are what being church, being the Body of Christ, is all about.
Our having drawn more closely together during these past twelve years, certainly makes this moment of separation and loss difficult. There is no loving that does not know pain. The grief we feel is real and deep. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is full in Christ Jesus. And our hope is sure and certain and draws a measure of its strength from the knowledge that you will remain committed, and even deepen your commitment to the future of this congregation, under the leadership of Father Eliacin. We know you will welcome him and his family, work with him, and come to love him. And this knowledge brings hope and joy to our sorrowing hearts.
Today is also a day of loss for John. His voice will no longer enrich the choir, and I know how much being a part of this praying and serving community has meant to him. I cannot let this moment pass without thanking him for all the support he has been throughout the many years of my priestly ministry. Star of stage and screen that he is, he has always been willing to take a back seat and play second fiddle to Jesus for the sake of my vocation.
Jesus uses many metaphors to present the mystery of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. The Kingdom of God is like leaven. The Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. The Kingdom of God is like a pearl of great price. Yes, the Kingdom of God is indeed worth our every breath.
In the Book of Proverbs we read, “Without a vision, the people perish.” The Kingdom of God is that vision, without which, I believe, we would perish. There would be little to keep us from falling into a place of desperate hopelessness, given the often, disheveled nature of our lives, and the episodes of chaos that the world offers up each day. The Kingdom of God is that prize upon which we fix our gaze, that light at the end of the tunnel, the joy of our desiring hearts, whatever the upsets, trials, and losses life offers up. Gracefully the Kingdom of God is by no means a vision that is ambiguous as to its identity, its priorities, and the means to serve its advancement. In our preaching we have hopefully been clear about what it means to hold on to that plow, to till that field, and to plant the seeds for a harvest that God will bring to ripeness in His time.
The wellspring of the Kingdom of God is love. Our thirst is quenched when we open ourselves up to embrace and live the gift of divine intimacy that God has bestowed on us through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. A gift that the world cannot give and a joy that the world cannot take away.
God engages us as His lover. And His love is for us is unconditional, uncompromised, boundless, and unrelenting. As Saint Paul reminds us, “There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in
Christ.” No matter who we are, nor how we define ourselves, whether we are close to Him, far from Him, or even deny Him, He loves us. We are God’s beloved. All of us and each of us.
Divine love is the rock from which living water flows. The love that is in God, of God, and for us, has been revealed to us in the person and mystery of Jesus Christ. It is a love that defies all our selfish and self-serving impulses and expresses itself most poignantly on the cross. God so loved the world that he gave himself in an act and expression of absolute vulnerability. Love is not about power. Love is about vulnerability. It is this cruciform love, and our embracing it as our way of life, that brings forth the Kingdom.
Again, it is about a love that is incarnational. God is not some ethereal phantom in the sky. The God revealed in Jesus is a God who is always immediately present to us in the flesh and blood of the
other – and most intensely in the flesh and blood of the poor, the naked, the hungry, the homeless, the other who stands before us in need of compassion, mercy, tenderness, and a welcoming and loving embrace. Service to those the world would leave behind, and being a voice for those whom the world would consign to silence, is the work with which we have been entrusted for the sake of the Kingdom’s coming.
Blessed Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran Archbishop murdered at the altar, left us this prayerful reflection on the Kingdom of God. Madre and I leave this with you today.
The archbishop wrote:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is, also beyond our sight.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and to do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Sisters and brothers, it is not for us to strive for success. The victory belongs to God alone. It is for us to be faithful. If we are faithful, we are already successful. So let us remain faithful through this transition, and as we continue this journey into God’s tomorrow and the coming of His Kingdom in its fulness. Amen.
-The Rev. Frank J. Alagna
June 25, 2023