A mustard seed, a pearl, yeast, a hidden treasure, a seed that grows into grain. We know that the Kingdom of God is not only an ideal future, but it is a reality that has been present since the beginning of time. So, what is Jesus trying to tell us about the Kingdom of God?
Parables are a cornerstone of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The kingdom parables are short, use real-world images, and are rich in meaning. This makes them perfect for the youngest child, who is hungry for profound truths and can use his imagination to penetrate the mystery of the parables. Young children can linger over these verses for a long time filled with wonder, joy, and thanksgiving. In Level 1, we use real materials, e.g. mustard seeds, pearls, yeast and flour to aid the child’s meditation.
Older children also enjoy the parables. In the Level 2 and Level 3 atrium, we will synthesize these parables to look for similarities and differences. When the older child wonders, their natural response is also a moral one: “What should I do? What is my place in the kingdom?” Sofia Cavalletti writes, “The person who at a certain point becomes aware of the dynamic nature of the Kingdom of God, which is like a mustard seed, will gradually come to see this dynamism filling the universe and empowering man and his history.” (“Religious Potential of the Child,” p. 165).
The young child has led us to two themes: growth/transformation and value. Children delight in the contrast of the mustard seed (read Matthew 13:31-32), and the tree that grows from it. They are able to sit in wonder a long time over the mustard seed, barely visible on the tip of their finger. What other sorts of growth do they know about? They were once so small and now are so big. Their own bodies are a sign of the kingdom! Older children will enjoy comparing this parable to that of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29.
Then there is the pearl merchant who is searching for pearls. When he finds one of great value, he sells all that he has and buys it (Matthew 13: 45-46). Younger children will linger on the beauty of the pearl, and wonder about who the merchant is. Older children may pick up on the sacrifice of the merchant. Neither interpretation is wrong, but we should let the child come to the second moment on his own, without imposition. Joy and wonder is the foundation of a trusting relationship with God.
In Matthew 13:44, a man found a treasure hidden in a field. In his joy he sold all that he had to buy that field. So often, I personally connect this to being in the atrium. Often, what is proclaimed looks like a box. It is intriguing, and we know it hides something wonderful. It is only when we have discovered the treasure within that it becomes ours. The beginning of wisdom is ownership of the good news.
Home Activities: In Matthew 13:33, the kingdom is likened to a woman who mixes yeast into three measures of flour. Make pizza or bread dough with your child. Check back to see how high the dough has risen. Read the scripture and wonder together: What is this mysterious power that causes all of this transformation? Where does it come from? Who is the woman? What is the flour?
Other ideas: Plant a seed in a cup and read about the mustard seed or the growing seed. Do you have pearl jewelry? Read the pearl parable. What else in your home is precious to you? Find it and talk about its personal meaning. What do you treasure?
Scripture Links: There are many kingdom parables. Here are the ones that we use in Levels 1 and 2, and refer to in Level 3…
- The Mustard Seed, Matthew 13:31-32, http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=184147060
- The Growing Seed, Mark 4:26-29, http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=184147367
- The Precious Pearl, Matthew 13: 45-46, http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=184147842
- The Hidden Treasure, Matthew 13:44, http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=184147891
- The Leaven, Matthew 13:33, http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=184147938