Their future doesn’t look very promising. After all, Jesus and his followers are just a small group of people in a little corner of Palestine, with few friends among the religious leaders and those in authority, and with a message that doesn’t seem to be reaching very far.
So Jesus tries to get the disciples to imagine what the kingdom of God will be like. He uses images, little stories or parables, to paint a picture of God’s kingdom and its future growth. His listeners know that the mustard seed is tiny, yet Jesus tells them that from the smallest of seeds comes a tree so large that birds can nest in it. The kingdom of God is like that mustard seed, he says.
A second image, which Jesus uses elsewhere, makes the same point. The kingdom of God is like the yeast a woman mixes in with flour. A small amount of yeast has a huge effect – it can produce bread for a lot of people. The kingdom of God is like yeast, Jesus tells them.
The message is clear: the kingdom of God may have small, unimpressive beginnings, but like the mustard seed and the yeast, it will grow into something big and have an effect out of all proportion to its humble start.
Pray for missionaries and all who work to sow the seeds of God’s kingdom throughout the world. Pray that you also will be an effective missionary of the Gospel.
These are challenging times for the Church in the West. We know the statistics; we can see with our own eyes how church attendance is falling even as the average age of priests and religious is increasing. The COVID-19 lockdowns of the last eighteen months have made matters worse. It is easy to feel down and demoralised.
It can seem like the yeast has lost its power, that the mustard seed is desiccating. We can be tempted to think that the promise Jesus made is not being fulfilled, and that, far from expanding, the kingdom of God is contracting and even dying.
That is why it’s so important to hold fast to the promise Jesus made to his disciples, and that he makes to us too. Jesus assures us that the kingdom of God will flourish because it is God’s will that it flourishes. And we are called to trust in Jesus. We trust in Jesus by putting our trust in small things and in God’s grace.
The Holy Spirit is alive and active. Lots of small things are happening out there that are enabling the kingdom to grow. Many Catholics are looking seriously at what it means to be Church. They know the Church isn’t made up just of bishops, priests and religious but of all the people of God. They are thinking about what needs to be done to help promote renewal and new life in the Church, how they can be a seed or a leaven in the lives of others and of their parish community. Just as the kingdom of God grew out of small things, they know that the little things we do, the little acts of love we show, even if they appear insignificant in isolation, can grow into something wonderful.
- The word of God is something alive and active
All our prayers and good works, no matter how seemingly small, help God’s kingdom to flourish.
Think about those who have been a seed, a leaven, in your life, those family members or others who shaped and inspired you to become the person you are. How can you be a seed, a leaven, in the lives of others in these challenging times?
Think about those who feel excluded from or hurt by the Church. How can you be a mustard seed, a gram of yeast, in their lives that transforms and heals and builds up? What might you need to change in your thinking so as to help bring about real growth and transformation in the Church?