Season of Light: WEEK THREE – Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
By Dr Kim Power31 Oct 2019
Praying with the Luminous Mysteries: Jesuit Communications offers a series of reflections around the five Luminous Mysteries. This week we explore the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
Parishes and prayer groups: Feel free to print and share our PDF resource, attach it to your parish bulletin or post it on your parish website or Facebook page: Download Season of Light – Week Three PDF.
Mark 1: 14-20
In the scripture for this mystery, soon after John’s ministry has ended, Jesus proclaims the kingdom (Mark 1:14-20). Jesus announces that now is the time of fulfillment, as he points to the nearness of the kingdom. The response called for is twofold: ‘repent, and believe in the good news’. The invitation acts as a summons to turn towards God in our lives. It is in God that we will find renewal.
1. Dr Kim Power names gardens as central to the way the early church imagined God’s kingdom. How have gardens nourished your own imagination?
2. Dr Power sees a garden as a special place of encounter with God and each other. What do you find most compelling in her vision?
The garden of God
Dr Kim Power is a psychologist and theologian whose specialist areas were Patristic Studies, Women & the Church, and religion and science. With her husband Paul she co-founded the Sunflower Foundation (Australia) Inc. in 2008 to educate girls in developing countries. Here she speaks of what shaped her images of the Kingdom of God.
My personal and professional life melded to shape my understanding of the Kingdom. Pre-eminently, Jesus emphasised that the Kingdom is within, and that it is not of this earth. His symbols were of creation – a mustard seed, a shepherd, a field holding treasure, a pearl; or of households – a woman kneading dough, a scribe who can integrate old and new. And it was seen as a new creation, Eden reborn.
When early Christians celebrated Eucharist, they met in homes, and if they were Gentile Christians, their dining room walls were covered with garden imagery. So, when you shared Eucharist, you were symbolically with Jesus in Eden.
When Constantine allowed Christians to assemble publicly, they decorated the walls of their basilicas with paintings and mosaics depicting the Kingdom, using glorious images of gardens and pastoral scenes, creating a riot of colour and fertility. When catechumens entered the church for the first time after baptism, it would be as if they were entering a new paradise.
In around 381 AD, Christianity became the imperial religion. It is easy to understand why Christians interpreted this as the fulfillment of the Gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. And church imagery began to substitute the symbols of royal courts for gardens. We see mosaics of the Kingdom where Jesus and Mary are depicted as Emperor and Empress. And so, Jesus’ subversion of the Kingdom was itself subverted. The Kingdom of Heaven was subtly secularised.
Yet even now, a new Eden still lives in the Christian imagination. Indeed, we still decorate our churches with flowers today. My mother used to say, ‘the purest of God’s pleasure is a garden.’ And she and my father had two of the greenest thumbs on earth.
When I was ill some years ago, I was supposed to go outside every morning and sit in the sun to regulate my body clock. I would go onto my balcony; sometimes I would garden, and sometimes I’d just sit there. Gradually, I developed a routine of sorts. I started to pay attention to the plants and to allow myself really to feel the beauty of so much that I can easily take for granted. The lushness of foliage, the glory of the flowers managing to blossom even when we watered with grey water. My mornings became a time of peace and healing in the presence of the Spirit. And I understood Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetic insight: ‘There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.’
So, at 77, I don’t have much time for my childish idea of heaven as a feudal kingdom or a Roman empire, where streets are paved with gold. I imagine heaven to be a garden where I can meet my God and my friends, walking and talking in the shade of the evening.
The garden is a place of unconditional love, not only of God’s for us, but ours for each other.
For more on the Luminous Mysteries, go to www.pray.com.au.