Monday, July 30, 2012
1) Opening prayer
God our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy,
nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 13,31-35
Jesus put another parable before them, 'The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches.'
He told them another parable, 'The kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.'
In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: I will speak to you in parables, unfold what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.
• We are meditating on the Discourse of the Parables, the objective of which is that of revealing, by means of comparisons, the mystery of the Kingdom of God present in the life of the people. Today’s Gospel presents to us two brief parables, the mustard seed and the yeast. In these Jesus tells two stories taken from daily life, which will serve as terms of comparison to help the people to discover the mystery of the Kingdom. When meditating these two stories it is not necessary to try to discover what each element of the stories want to tell us about the Kingdom. First of all, one must look at the story itself, as a whole and try to discover which is the central point around which the story was constructed. This central point will serve as a means of comparison to reveal the Kingdom of God. Let us try to discover which is the central point of the two parables.
• Matthew 13,31-32: The parable of the mustard seed. Jesus says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed” and then immediately he tells the story: a mustard seed which is very small is cast into the ground; being very small, it grows and becomes larger than other plants and attracts the birds which come and build their nests on it. Jesus does not explain the story. Here applies what he said on another occasion: “Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear!” That is, “It is this. You have heard, and so now try to understand!” It is up to us to discover what the story reveals to us about the Kingdom of God present in our life. Thus, by means of this story of the mustard seed, Jesus urges us to have fantasy, because each one of us understands something about the seed. Jesus expects that the persons, all of us, begin to share that which each one has discovered. Now, I share three points that I have discovered on the Kingdom, beginning with this parable: (a) Jesus says: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed”. The Kingdom is not something abstract, it is not an idea. It is a presence in our midst (Lk 17,21). How is this presence? It is like the mustard seed: a very small presence, humble, which can hardly be seen. It is about Jesus, a poor carpenter, who goes through Galilee, speaking about the Kingdom to the people of the towns. The Kingdom of God does not follow the criteria of the great of the world. It has a different way of thinking and of proceeding. (b) The prophecy evokes a prophecy of Ezekiel, in which it is said that God will take a small twig of the cedar and will plant it on the mountain of Israel. This small twig of cedar “will bring forth branches and will bear fruit and will become a magnificent cedar. Under it all the birds will live, every kind of birds will rest under it. All the trees of the forest will know that I am the Lord, who humiliated the tall tree and exalted the low one; I dry the green tree and make the dry tree come to life. I the Lord have spoken and I will do it” (Ez 17,22-23). (c) The mustard seed, even if very small, grows and gives hope. Like the mustard seed, in the same way the Kingdom has an interior force and it grows. How does it grow? It grows through the preaching of Jesus and of the disciples in the towns of Galilee. It grows up until today, through the witness of the community and becomes good news of God which radiates light and attracts persons. The person, who gets close to the community, feels welcomed, accepted, at home, and builds in it her nest, her dwelling. Finally, the parable leaves in the air a question: who are the birds? The question will receive an answer later, in the Gospel. The text suggests that it is a question of the pagans who will be able to enter into the Kingdom (Mt15,21-28).
• Matthew 13,33: The parable of the yeast. The story of the second parable is the following: A woman took a bit of yeast and mixed it with three measures of flour, till it is leavened all through. Once again, Jesus does not explain, he only says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast...” Like in the first parable, it is up to us to discover the significance which this has for us today. The following are some points which I have discovered and which have made me think: (a) What grows is not the yeast, but the dough. (b) It is a question of something of a house, well known to a woman in her house. (c) The yeast is mixed up with the pure dough of flour, and contains something fermented. (d) The objective is to have all the dough fermented, and not only one part. (e) The yeast is not an end in itself but serves to make the dough grow.
• Matthew 13,34-35: Why Jesus speaks in parables. Here, at the end of the Discourse of the Parables, Matthew clarifies the reason which urged Jesus to teach the people using the form of parables. He says that it was in order that the prophecy would be fulfilled which said: "I will open the mouth to use parables; I will proclaim hidden things since the creation of the world”. In reality, the text that has been quoted is not of a prophet, but rather it is a Psalm (Ps 78,2). For the first Christians the whole of the Old Testament was a great prophecy which announced in a veiled way the coming of the Messiah and the fulfilment of the promises of God. In Mark 4,34-34, the reason which urged Jesus to teach the people by means of parables was to adapt the message to the capacity of the people. With these examples taken from the life of the people, Jesus helped the persons to discover the things of God in the life of every day. Life then became transparent. He made them perceive that what was extraordinary in God is hidden in the ordinary and common things of daily life. People understood the things of life. In the parables they received the key to open them and to find in them the signs of God. At the end of the Discourse of the Parables, in Matthew 13,52, as we shall see later, another reason will be explained why Jesus chose to teach with parables.
4) Personal questions
• Which point of these two parables did you like best or which struck you more? Why?
• Which is the seed that without being aware has grown in you and in your community?
5) Concluding Prayer
I will sing of your strength,
in the morning acclaim your faithful love;
you have been a stronghold for me,
a refuge when I was in trouble. (Ps 59,16)