Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
At bedtime, before I pray my night prayer, I pick up a novel or a good book and read a couple of chapters. Currently, I am reading “A Man Called Ove.” Highly recommended. It’s great to be drawn into the action, the emotion, the spirit of a good story. In fact, a really good book or story should allow us to think about our own life! Before the days of movies and novels… the spoken word was it and so people told stories for entertaining and for teaching. And that is why Jesus told stories.
When Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven, as he does over 50 times in Matthew’s Gospel, we might expect him to describe far off amazing places. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he compare Kingdom of heaven or “God’s love” as a farmer doing his job, an insignificant tiny seed and woman baking bread. It is by taking us into these three little stores, that Jesus brings us back to our own story. Why? Because, Jesus wants to point out to us where the Kingdom is in our own lives. In fact we could say, the Kingdom of heaven/God is where we experience sacred things happening. So, where does this leave us as we continue to live our lives? Jesus calls us to be the faithful farmer, the good seed and the yeast. How do we do that? By taking on, and continuing the ministry of Jesus – extending love, or generosity, or compassion, or mercy – even if it looks like it might be a waste of time. In other words, we are called to reach out to someone who fails time and time again. It’s the money given to a person on the street who looks like they’ll probably be a pretty bad investment. It’s the hospitality offered to just one refugee among millions, or the welcome given to someone that, no one else seems to warm up to. It’s the one letter written in support of people who don’t have a voice. Attempts like these and others, to try to make the world more just and kind.
And often, even the small efforts we make don’t seem like they’re going to make the least bit of difference in our world. But the thing is, we’re not here to change our entire world. We’re about building a new world, in the midst of our current, and broken one. And that’s the point of these parables about the farmer, seeds and the yeast, and what Jesus calls ‘the kingdom of heaven.’ AGAIN, folks, thekingdom of heaven he talks about, isn’t that other time and space where everything is in a state of perfection. The kingdom of heaven is the way we can live in our world –now. It’s a kingdom we can choose to live in, and build for others – with totally different values and sense of what’s important, and what isn’t. In this kingdom, the usual and everyday rules we’re familiar with don’t apply. The kingdom of heaven is where the poor count for more than the rich and powerful – where we give things away for the sake of the good of others – where love guides the decision we make. That kingdom isn’t built by tearing down, or by pulling out the weeds, of imperfections in others. It’s all about planting, mixing – and believing in the work – in the outcome. It’s about believing that even a little yeast turns flour into loaves of bread, and that every seed ends up as a tree. These parables are all about showing patience – having hope – believing in grace – and not throwing our hands up in defeat thinking that, even if we’re inspired by God to do something good, the odds against us are just too great to make the effort.
And so, again, (note the repetition) Jesus tells us that stories are invaluable, especially our own. Through his stories and parables, Jesus shows us that love is never wasted – and despite the way things might look, the kingdom will always flourish. Amen.