Readings: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-30
When my brother and his family came to visit me some years ago, my niece Stephanie, who was three years old at the time, told me that she wanted me to read her a story. Stephanie is now twenty-seven, but that remains one of my fondest memories of their visits. Of course, there was the other time when Stephanie wedged her head between the back and the seat of the chair and we had to unscrew the chair to get her head out. That was when she was six.
Children love stories. Stephanie handed me her story book…
Doesn’t everyone enjoy stories? Abraham Lincoln made some of his greatest political interventions when he’d start off, “That reminds me of the story of the feller…” We find today that Jesus liked to tell stories, because people remember stories. Jesus took common, every day examples from real life to bring home the crucial message of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness to a people raised on the prescriptions of law. And we still remember and repeat those stories that Jesus told.
There was a woman who took a handful of yeast together with several pounds of flour, until all the dough was leavened and it all rose. There was a man who put a tiny mustard seed in the ground and look how big it grew. Have you ever picked a stalk of wheat or barley in the field? Look and see how many grains of wheat have come out of the one seed that was there. These are just three examples today of Jesus’ story-telling gift. They ring true with our experience; we remember them. But after each story, Jesus says, “And this is just what the Kingdom of God is like.” And with that, he walks away. Jesus wants us to think about what he said. One picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?
But that will only be true if we think about what the picture shows us. Jesus’ frequent complaint was that people had a short memory span–which is as true today as it was then. We quickly forget. Can I take the time to reflect? I need to pay more attention to life. Life is so rich. Life is so full. We need to see life as God’s Kingdom and to listen and think about it.
The Kingdom of God is in your midst, we are told; that will only be true for me if I carry the Kingdom of God within me. I can live with an awareness of God’s true presence in the world, in those who are around me, within myself: how different life becomes then! Like yeast that permeates a wad of dough or like a tiny speck of a seed that takes root and becomes bigger than any plant. The Kingdom of God is God’s ready gift to any who seek God in their life. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me and praying within me.
I need to thank God always for the gift of these stories by which Jesus shows me who God is for me. God is quite amazing when you think about it. And his gift of himself to one who asks is just as amazing.