How to Picture the Kingdom of God

15th Sunday – Ordinary Time (A)
July 16, 2023
by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR


Today’s Gospel [1] marks the beginning of the 3rd long discourse given by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.…a lengthy teaching discourse. Throughout this discourse, Jesus will offer several parables to illustrate for his listeners what he means by the kingdom of heaven.

Today visualizes [2] a scene which anyone in Palestine would understand. Here we actually see Jesus using the here and now to get to the there and then. What in all likelihood happened was that, as Jesus was using the boat by the lakeside as a pulpit, in one of the fields nearby a sower was actually sowing. Jesus took the sower, whom they could all see, as a text, and began: "Look at the sower there sowing his seed in that field!"

Jesus began from something which at the moment they could actually see to open their minds to truth which as yet they had never seen.

Some time ago, I was trying to remember the verses where Jesus said "The kingdom of God is like," or "How do we compare the kingdom of God." Through the wonders of computer technology — by simply searching for the phrase compare and kingdom into a computer bible program…I found the direction I was seeking…

Mark 4:30 was the actual verse…but what a difference in separate translations: The New International Bible (NIV) has The kingdom of God is like, the New American Bible (NAB) has How d0 we compare the kingdom of God, while the New American Standard Bible (NAS) translates the word "compare" as "picture." How do you picture the kingdom of God

Bingo! that was the angle or slant for which I was searching…For visual learners how often do we say: "I don’t see what you mean?" Or, "Now I get the picture!" These are "Aha" moments of, "Now I see it!"

Through parables one can assist people in envisioning, comparing a connection from the biblical word, to the stories of their lives and to the kingdom of God. "They imprint a picture on our minds." [3]

The rabbi [4] was once asked, "Why does a Parable possess such great influence"

The rabbi replied. "I will explain this by way of a parable:

"Truth was accustomed to walk about as naked as Truth was born. No one allowed Truth to enter a home and everyone who encountered Truth ran away in fright.

"Truth felt greatly embittered and could find no resting place. Now, one day Truth beheld Parable attired in colorful, expensive garments. Parable inquired, ‘Why are you so dejected, my friend?’

"Truth replied, ‘I am in a bad situation. I am old, very old, and no one cares to have anything to do with me.’

"’Nay,’ retorted Parable, ‘it is not because of your age that you are disliked by people. Look, I am as old as you are, and the older I grow, the more do I seem to be loved. Let me disclose to you the secret of my apparent popularity. People enjoy seeing everything dressed up and somewhat disguised. Let me lend to you some of my garments, and you will see that people will like you as well.’

"Truth followed this counsel and dressed in the garments of Parable. Ever since then, Truth and Parable walked hand in hand, and everyone loves them both."

Parables, in the New Testament, primarily designates stories that are illustrative comparisons between Christian truths and events of everyday life. They are meant to sharpen the curiosity of the hearer. Jesus finds in the common things of life a countless source of signs which lead men and women to God if they will only read them aright. …but, sadly, "so many have eyes to see but see not and ears to hear but hear not

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 546) [5] states:

546: Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his…The parables are like mirrors…: will I be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use have I made of the talents I have received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.

Today's parable can be called the Hard News of the Good News. The Hard News is dressed up in the garment of a parable so as not to scare off or frighten hearers with the naked truth. The Hard News is that there is No Universal Salvation; not everyone will be saved.…Only 1 out of 4…only 25% of seeds sown bear fruit, and not all the seeds will bear fruit equally, i.e., some 100-fold, some 60-fold, and some 30-fold.

So, as a mirror parable, lets us look at ourselves:

1. Some seeds fall on the hard footpath, i.e., a person with a hard heart who shuts off one’s mind from hearing God’s Word. Hardened by anger, jealousy, immorality, prejudice…unteachable spirits. This life soil is too hardened to penetrate.

2. Some seeds fall on rocky soil, i.e., they begin to acquire some new accomplishment with enthusiasm, but then it becomes difficult and they abandon it, or the enthusiasm wanes and they lay it aside. They are just too shallow to bear fruit.

3. Other seeds falls among thorns, i.e., this person has so many interests in life that often the most important things, get crowded out. Life becomes progressively cluttered and increasingly fast.

This person becomes too busy to pray; he or she becomes preoccupied with so many things that he/she can become so involved in committees and good works and charitable deeds that he/she leaves no time for God from whom all love and service come.

They get distracted by all the good works, and forget the best work.…This life soil is just too cluttered with stuff.

4. Then, some seeds fall on good soil, i.e., this person, like good soil, has an open mind…is always willing to learn and is prepared to hear. He/she is never too proud, or too busy, to listen to the Word of God.

Finally, he/she translates hearing into action; produces good fruit from the good seed sown into fertile life-soil.

Such was the mirror Jesus raised up before his hearers. What does it reflect back to you for your life?

As Jesus said, "…blest are your eyes because they see and blest are your ears because they hear."

In closing, remember the 1st reading from Isaiah 55:10-11:

"Thus says the Lord…giving seed to the one who sows…so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

"The seed is the word of God, Jesus is the Sower. All who come to him will have life forever."

Today, listen carefully to God’s Word being sown in your life; be nourished and strengthened through this Eucharist.

Go and bear an abundant harvest in your life!







1. Sunday Connection, Loyola Press, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, Sunday, July 16, 2023,

2. William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1976), 57–58.

3. Janet Litherland, Storytelling from the Bible, Colorado Springs, CO: Meriwether Publ., 1991, p. 3.

4. Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR, "Truth and Parable," The Sower’s Seeds: Revised and Expanded—120 Inspiring Stories for Preaching, Teaching and Public Speaking, Source Unknown, Mahwah, NJ: 2004.

5. Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), CCC 546, 139–140.