In this Sunday’s Gospel, the Lord offers us two images of the Kingdom of God—the mustard seed and the yeast in the dough. Both carry special meaning for seminarians and priests.
For those who grew up without much exposure to agriculture, you may not know much about seeds. I, for one, had to look this up. It turns out the mustard seed—the smallest of seeds which grows into the greatest of plants—boasts a special quality. Its power, its flavor, its strength is bound up on the inside and can be unleashed only when it is crushed. The meaning is clear: The power of Christian faith will be unleashed precisely in times of trial.
For example, when a seminarian or priest is challenged in class or a pastoral assignment to be more generous, to give and not to count the cost, it is precisely then that like the mustard seed the power of his vocation is unleashed. When a man is confronted about somewhere in his life where he needs to grow, like the mustard seed, it is precisely then that the power of his vocation can come out. The docility and obedience which we hope will characterize our priestly lives needs to begin now. When we meet a challenge or suffer a setback, we remember the mustard seed. Precisely when crushed, its strength is unleashed.
Second, today we learn that the Kingdom of God is like the yeast in the dough. Even those not too familiar with bakingrecognize the simple truth that yeast should penetrate the whole of the dough.
Catholic faith should be a leaven in the world. It should penetrate the whole of life. Too often people conceive of faith as being cooped up in Church, good only for Sunday. Instead, Catholic faith should be like yeast leavening dough. It should enter every nook and cranny of life transforming it from the inside. Politics, economics, education, all deserve the presence of Christ and His Church. The teaching of Christ belongs in the boardroom and the bedroom and the classroom and the voting booth. Nowhere should be immune from His saving power. The yeast of Catholic faith should leaven the dough of the world.
This image applies especially to Christ’s lay faithful whose mission is precisely to be leaven in the world. They are to be the yeast in the dough bringing the Gospel to every corner of life.
At the same time, this image speaks to seminarians and priests too. No area of the dough will rise without the yeast. No area of life should be set apart from the saving power of Christ. We always go wrong when we try to retain some part of life just for ourselves.
In the seminary, there can be a temptation to give over to the Lord a good portion of our lives but to keep some piece back just for us. This portion of my day, this time of the year, or this part of lifewe opine we can retain from the Lord. Instead, the yeast and the dough remind us that He is supposed to penetrate every corner of life. Every aspect of our heart and our mind, our time, and our history belongs to Jesus and His Church. We have got to let the Lord be the Lord in every aspect of life.
The mustard seed and the yeast and the dough—the whole of life transformed and unleashed—the Kingdom of God at hand.