"Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
There are many gospel stories wherein the people involved failed to recognize Jesus as the Christ. And I’m sure it is easy for most of us to distance ourselves from those people. I certainly find it easy to persuade myself that, on the whole, I recognize the Christ in myself and others on a daily basis. I am sure that if God were to send his personal messenger to me I would not turn him away or stone him or kill him. And yet, upon a close reading of this gospel, I noticed that Jesus does not condemn his listeners for turning away from God’s messenger. No, as the final lines of the Gospel clearly state, his listeners are charged with producing the fruits of the kingdom of God. In fact, it states that "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you." This clearly implies that we already have the kingdom of God available to us. The question I then ask myself is not, "do I recognize the messenger of God when he appears?" but rather "am I producing the fruits of the kingdom of heaven?"
Now when I ask this kind of question I find it easy to become worried or stressed. How do I even know what the fruits of the kingdom of heaven are? St. Paul, in his epistle to the Philippians, gives us great instructions on how to be sure we are producing the fruits of the kingdom of heaven.
The first step? Don’t be anxious! God is not asking me to worry or stress about whether I am doing his will. But he is asking me to be attentive to it. The second step: in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make my requests known to God. I need to pray with a fervent heart to God our Father for the wisdom, the grace, and the strength to do His will. Then, the fruits of the kingdom of heaven will flow from my actions.
Talib Huff is a volunteer and presenter at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California.