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Building the Kingdom  
Marion A. Clark  

"Prepare the way of the Lord" (Luke 3:4). These words of John the Baptist echo throughout the season of Advent. His words come as a wake up call. They remind us to step up our efforts in making the world ready for Christmas so that once again Jesus will be born in each one of us and we will be prepared to greet him when he comes in glory.

Even without John the Baptist's reminder, we intuitively know that Advent is the time to prepare. We know that in the weeks ahead we have much to do to get ready, preparing our hearts and our homes. We look forward to Christmas and to the second coming of Christ. A kingdom built on service, selfsacrifice, peace, and justice. Advent brings out the best in us as we make haste to prepare. We look at the world with fresh eyes and search out ways to help those we see who are in need. Many parish communities respond to this readiness by increasing their commitment to providing service and outreach. These acts of service and charity do not only bring us a change of heart; they remind us that we need faith in action to be part of our preparation for the coming of the Christ Child.

But even when it comes time to pack away the rituals and symbols of Advent and Christmas, we do not want to pack away its essence. For the challenge in every parish community is to continue fostering the kingdom building that takes root in these most holy of seasons. Moreover, it is the very mission of the Church to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us by using them for the good of the world.

With a desire to continue the spirit of kingdom building each and every day, St. Bartholomew Catholic community in Wayzata, Minnesota, gave its parishioners a "kingdom assignment." Based on the Gospel of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14 - 30), Father Michael Redding asked the congregation at all the Masses one weekend, "Who will volunteer for a kingdom assignment?" Then as the volunteers came forward he gave each of them a $100 bill along with three key points: "First, this is God's money. Second, you need to use this $100 to build the kingdom of God beyond our church walls. Third, in 90 days you will be asked to settle your account and report your results."

The results of the kingdom assignment were phenomenal. Without a doubt the kingdom assignment had ignited a flame at St. Bartholomew. Of those who had received the $100 bill, some knew right away what they would do, while others were overwhelmed with the challenge of God's money. But the message was clear: do something with your master's money. And so, one by one, the assignment took root and the original $10,000 entrusted to the 100 volunteers grew into over $105,000. The stories of good works also multiplied as individuals found ways to use their time and talent for the good of others. One teacher used her money to build a library at a local homeless shelter, while a high school senior used hers to train a guide dog for assisting individuals with a disability to live independently. Another volunteer used his money to build birdhouses and grow plants and then sold them, donating the profits to a local service agency that provides food, shelter, and other services to those in need.

The spirit of these and many other kingdom assignments continues to catch on as others beyond the original 100 volunteers elected to begin their kingdom assignments. It even began to spread beyond St. Bartholomew as the kingdom builders went about their work. Calls started coming into St. Bartholomew asking for more information about this kingdom assignment project. In the end, the kingdom assignment has brought a new understanding to all who experienced it, reminding us that the spirit of kingdom building isn't just a seasonal mandate, but one that is our lifelong mission. So that someday when we meet our Master we can rejoice in the words "Well done, my good and trustworthy servant."

The original idea for the kingdom assignment came from a member of the St. Bartholomew Social Justice Commission after she read The Kingdom Assignment by Denny and Leesa Bellesi. More information about this book can be found on their website at www. KingdomAssignment.com.

© 2013 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications,
3949 South Racine Ave, Chicago IL 60609

Marion A. Clark
is Director of Shared Ministry and Social Justice at St. Bartholomew Catholic faith community in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has a B.S. in Social Work from Augsburg College and has worked more than 25 years in parish ministry.
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