Something from Nothing

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31 October 2017

18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Today Jesus tells two brief parables of the triumph of the insignificant.

In the first, the Kingdom of God is likened to a mustard seed. It starts from nothing and becomes enormous. Similarly, a tiny amount of leaven has an enormous impact on nearly 30 kilos of flour. What on earth is Our Lord talking about?

Let’s recall to whom Jesus was speaking. Whilst some listeners were educated in the Law and held some social standing, most were ‘Am-Ha-eretz’ – ‘the people of the land’ – irrelevant Galilean country bumpkins, half-breeds, C grade members of a despised former nation under the heel of the greatest power the world had ever known. In a word ‘nobodies’. And yet…

Bishop Robert Barron has memorably described JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring Trilogy as “one of the great Catholic novels of the Twentieth Century”.  Most readers will know the books or at least the film version. The story chronicles a desperate, surely hopeless fight against the towering Dark Lord. The few remaining great and good strive against it. All are tempted and some succumb – to compromise, to capitulation or to despair. Others resist such temptations and bravely carry the fight forward. In the end, however, it is the tiny humble rustics – Frodo and especially his servant Sam – who with quiet courage see the task through and witness the mighty fall of the evil empire.

Today we remember the oppressor of the Galileans, the Roman Empire, only because it fell. The ‘Eternal City’ is only so because it became the home of one of the Am Ha-eretz called Peter, a fisherman appointed to be a shepherd of the sheep. The tiny seed has become a vast tree.

We know this now but how ridiculous it would have seemed Our Lord’s first listeners.

What of us? As Catholics in this time and place, the mighty culture around us can seem so dominant, so powerful so dismissive of the word of God. However, the Word is eternal. We can be sure that the tiny seed of our struggling faith, our devotion, as St Teresa says our holy determinación – will be in full bloom when this and all other powers and dominions are footnotes in history. In the meantime, we must be leaven, our works of evangelization and mercy bringing light in the darkness as we await the arrival of the true Lord. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

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