You Don’t Live in Paradise–You Live It.

If you’re a parent, this Sunday’s readings offer a rare opportunity to put yourself in God’s place. If you’re an older parent, think back to when your child would do something they were supposed to do so they could earn a cookie. Then, once they earned the cookie, remember how they’d go back to doing what they weren’t supposed to do?  You were frustrated, right? “Why can’t our kid act more like an adult?”

Put yourself in the mind of God and you’ll realize that’s exactly what your kid was doing. Adults live in a world of quid pro quo, or getting something for something. The motive: what’s in the bargain for me? Rather immature attitude, wouldn’t you say? It’s this immaturity that keeps us from learning the wisdom of God. Cracking open our immature souls and planting God’s wisdom was the mission to which St. Paul devoted his life, as he told the Corinthians:

“We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,
not a wisdom of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden.”

The wisdom of God is mysterious in its simplicity. It isn’t bound by human complications. It’s as simple as the prophet Sirach states it in our first reading:

“Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.”

Yet what do we ask God for? Like a child, we ask for a big cookie. We want heaven in exchange for doing good. But God knows his children just as we know ours. What happens after our kids get that cookie for doing what they should be doing? They go back to doing what they shouldn’t. Our idea of heaven is having our cookie and eating it too—without the burden of responsibilities. In Sunday’s gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus banishes that idea of heaven:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets,” he says.
“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.”

And then what? And then will we get our cookie? This is where the maturity of which St. Paul spoke needs to sink in.  The Kingdom of God is not something we can earn. It’s what we must become.  And that eternal process is its own reward.

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