“Landing the Kingdom” (Mk 4:26-34) us the title of Fr. Tom McKenna’s bi-weekly reflection on FamVin. He offers a challenge to name and recognize the imprint of grace in the reality of our lives.
Jesus’ words and parables show a deep love for reality all around him. A careful observer, he puts much of this world into his proclamation, painting his Good News with colors from the daily lives of his hearers. To convey the irresistibility of his Father’s Kingdom, he images the hidden seed sprouting under the ground. To highlight its tiny beginnings, he draws on the minuscule mustard kernel which grows into the largest plant in the garden. With imagination and creativity, he opens his listener’s eyes to the New Era already breaking into their old one.
Vincent de Paul shows much the same instinct. More than one person has commented on the broad range of metaphors from everyday life salted through his writings. In an article on freedom, Fr. Robert Maloney details Vincent’s image-conscious approach, delivering his message through familiar objects such as silk thread, trees and carriage horses. In another place, Fr. John Rybolt catalogs the menagerie of animals Vincent drew upon to illustrate his points — all the way from barnyard cows, sheep, dogs and cats over to the more exotic whales and lions. Like his master, Vincent wanted people to find the divine presence inside the boundaries of everyday experience.
A recent book about preaching was titled Naming Grace. It depicts the homilist’s primary task as sifting through the events of modern-day life and then picking out places in it where grace has made its imprint. In line with Jesus’ and Vincent’s approach, this counteracts a tendency to distance the Holy Spirit from life as we know it. The Kingdom of God is in our midst, all three insist, and naming its movements as they circle through present-day experience furthers this claim. The homilist with eyes to see spots that presence stirring in the world and sets it inside topography hearers can recognize.
Immersed in life on the margins and expecting to find the face of The Lord in it, members of Vincent’s family resonate with this real-world approach. Not bound by the written page, the gospel they enact takes on flesh in the ordinary round. Messengers who tie links between it and everyday living bring color and impact to its power. With such imagination, we follow behind The Lord and indeed behind Vincent — whose creativity “extends to infinity.”