Vox Pastoris

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Level I Presentation Descriptions: The Kingdom of God

As we explain to the children, a parable is a story about something that we know that helps us think about something very mysterious. We usually focus on the parables of the Kingdom of God during the Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent.

There are five presentations under the subject of the Kingdom of God:

  1. The Mustard Seed
  2. The Leaven
  3. The Growing Seed
  4. The Pearl of Great Price
  5. The Hidden Treasure

Three of the parables invite us to wonder about how the Kingdom of God begins as something small and then grows into something great by a power that is not our own. The first is the Parable of the Mustard Seed: "Another parable he put before them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches'" (Matthew 13:31-32). While meditating on this parable, the catechist shares tiny mustard seeds from Israel with the children. These seeds are smaller than a grain of sand. Each child holds a seed while listening to the parable. The catechist then shows the children a photograph of a mature mustard plant with children standing next to it so that the children can see how big it is. Together we marvel at God's power to make something great out of something so small, a power that is at work in the mustard seed, in the world around us, and also in ourselves.

A second parable about the growth and transformation of the Kingdom of God is the Parable of the Leaven: "He told them another parable. 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened'" (Matthew 13:33). After reading the parable together, the catechist and the children mix three measures of flour with water in two different bowls. In one bowl, they also mix in yeast (leaven), but the other is left without it. The bowls of dough are set aside. Near the end of the atrium session, the catechist and children come together again to observe the differences between the two batches of dough. Like the leavened dough that has risen and changed, the Kingdom of God involves growth and transformation because of the hidden power of God at work. In subsequent atrium sessions, the children are able to repeat the activity and observe the change brought about by the yeast to aid their meditation on the parable.

A third related parable is the Parable of the Growing Seed: "And he said, 'The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear'" (Mark 4:26-28). The materials for this presentation include wheat seeds in a dish and dried wheat stalks. The children can take one stalk of wheat, crush it, and search for the seeds to add to the dish. The chaff is then discarded. The children can thus see that from the one seed, many seeds have grown.

The two other presentations in this subject focus on the great value and beauty of the Kingdom of God. The first is the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: "'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it'" (Matthew 13:45-46). In presenting this parable, the catechist shares with the children a wooden model of the merchant's house, a figure of the merchant, and several strings of pearls. At first the merchant fills his house with pearls, but in the end he trades them all for the one pearl of great value. We wonder together about how special that pearl must be and how happy the merchant must be to have found it. The materials are then available for the children's work.

A related parable is the Parable of the Hidden Treasure: "'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field'" (Matthew 13:44). The catechist shares a treasure box (which cannot be opened) as an aid to the meditation on this parable. At Level I (three- to six-year-olds), the catechist does not stress the aspect of sacrifice in these two parables (what we give up for the kingdom), but rather focuses on the beauty and value of the kingdom and the great joy that we experience in finding it. "The principal purpose in reflecting on the parables of the pearl and the treasure, like the other kingdom parables, is to evoke gently the spirit of wonder and awe in little children. They reinforce what the previous parables have helped the children to discover: so great is the value of that kingdom within us and around us that it surpasses everything else" (The Good Shepherd and the Child, page 60).

For further reading about the subject of the Kingdom of God in the Level I atrium, see The Religious Potential of the Child, chapter 8 and pages 160-162, and The Good Shepherd and the Child, chapter 7.

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