and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
"Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." And he replied, "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."
- Matthew 13:44-52
What is a “kingdom” like? Living in a democracy like the United States, we have very little firsthand experience with kingdoms. Even if we travel to a contemporary kingdom in Europe or another part of the world, we can’t gain a full understanding of what that term would have meant in the time of Christ. Our kingdoms today have rulers who are limited in their powers and restrained in what they can do. In the time of Christ, a king had complete control and authority over his country and his subjects. His word was law, and everyone had to submit themselves to what he wanted. You cannot create a concept more different from our modern idea of what a ruler should be and how a country should be governed.
But even for the people of Jesus’s time, who had lived their whole lives in kingdoms, could not fully comprehend the idea of the “kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven is not a traditional kingdom, with a physical location and a ruler who wields political power. Rather, the kingdom of heaven, also referred to in the Gospels as the kingdom of God, recognizes that God is Lord of everything and is present wherever His work is being done. Wherever, men and women are living lives according to the Will of God, there is the kingdom of heaven. It is a radical concept to imagine a kingdom without boundaries which can encompass the entire world and everyone in it. But this is the kingdom that Jesus is calling us to be a part of.
Perhaps because he knew how difficult this concept would be, Jesus devotes many of His parables to trying to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. In this week’s Gospel, we learn about the importance and value of the kingdom of heaven. We are told that it is so important, so value, and causes such great joy, that we should do everything we can to obtain it. This raises a key part of the Christian life: sacrifice. Everything worth obtaining involves a sacrifice of some kind and embracing Jesus and His message is no different. These sacrifices can take many forms and can sometimes be difficult. It could involve eliminating possessions or habits form your life which, though enjoyable, get in the way of your relationship with God. It could involve ending relationships which prevent you from being the person God created you to be. It may even involve addressing those parts of your life and those sins which you would rather lock away in a cabinet and throw away the key. But it is through these sacrifices that we are able to grow closer to God. Just as through pruning a rosebush grows stronger, so too are we strengthened through our sacrifices. And once we have made these sacrifices, we are then able to afford the buried treasure or the pearl of great price. We are able to enter the kingdom of heaven.