Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” He proposed another parable to them.“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world. Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” NABRE
What is the kingdom of Heaven? Matthew’s parables provide some insight into what we can expect. In fact, Matthew preaches that the kingdom has come, and that it is to come. Some may read this as it was present while Jesus walked the earth and it is to come again with his second coming. This interpretation does not recognize the Holy Spirit as an avenue for making the kingdom present today. I think the better interpretation is that the kingdom is here, but its fullness will be realized in the hereinafter. Still, there is much to experience in this life.
What does today’s Gospel reading tell us about kingdom living? The scope of its message is beyond what I want to focus on today, which is insights into the leaven and the mustard seed. As I ponder these two parables, I see an underlying theme of growth. This insight went deeper as I realized that a mustard seed has the ability to grow on its own, its growth is passive. Contrast this with the active component of kneading the dough. In other words, living within the kingdom has both active and contemplative components. Both of these are important for growing the kingdom of God in this life.
In the active life, we knead the leaven by living a life of service like Jesus did. Service to others enhances the kingdom in two ways. By serving others, we live out the Gospel, and attract new members to the kingdom. It is in loving service that we draw people to Christ. In addition, through service, we die to self. Our selfish desires are broken down, and we have the opportunity to see the joy that comes from selfless living.
However, the active life is incomplete without the contemplative. The truth of the statement may come to light differently in different people. In my experience, my active ministry collapsed. I was unable to successfully continue the mission. Through the lens of my experiences, I have come to understand that service without the involvement of the Holy Spirit is good, but it is not as fulfilling and robust as service with and in the Holy Spirit.
How do we attain this joint mission of service in and through the Holy Spirit? I suggest it is through the contemplative efforts. It is through the mustard seed. The mustard seed is planted. The rain falls, and the sun warms the earth. These activities, plus the DNA instructions inherent within the seed, cause it to grow into a large plant.
I would suggest that it is through sitting in silence with the son while reflecting on his love and mercy that we allow God to grow the kingdom within us. We allow him to prune away anything that is not holy. We allow him to take up a deeper residence within us. We allow him to fortify us and to make us strong.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit in silence. Invite the Spirit within and authorize him to shape your interior life so that it looks more like that of Jesus. Spend some time just knowing how much you are loved by God. As you wind down your passive prayer, invite the Holy Spirit into your active prayer. Invite him to use you to knead the dough of your social life. Allow him to invigorate your life by helping you be more aware of his presence in your active life. Close your time of prayer with praise and thanksgiving, and sing joyful songs to the Lord.
Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P., JD, MTS