"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." - (Mt 13:34-35)
This week's gospel reading has Jesus telling three parables. All three take a situation which would have been familiar to those in the crowd, and draws a parallel to the kingdom of heaven. The first one he explains. A man sows wheat in his field, but while he sleeps, an enemy comes and sows weeds among the good seed. Rather than pull the weeds and risk damaging the wheat, the man decides to wait until the harvest and then gather the weeds and burn them. Jesus tells the disciples after the crowd has gone that weeds he was talking about are "the children of the evil one." At the end of the age, their power to do harm will be destroyed and "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." We do well to remember that good is not the only force at work in the world today. We are told that darkness cannot overcome the light, but in this present age, the two forces struggle.
Jesus invites us to find our own meaning in the remaining two parables. The second likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed that while tiny, grows into a bush large enough for birds to nest in. I don't know much about mustard seeds, but I can tell you about sugar snap peas. Memorial Day weekend, I planted rows of hard, white balls, less than a quarter inch in size. Since then the garden has been fed, watered and weeded and now I have beautiful, flower filled vines climbing trellises over three feet high. I can't wait for those flowers to deliver on their promise. It's incredible how those little white balls have been transformed. Imagine what we might become in the kingdom of heaven.
The last parable says the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman mixes with three measures of four, leavening the whole batch. I love to cook but I consider myself only an average baker, although I do have a specialty that's known in the extended Sargent family only as "the rolls." I consider yeast something magical and intimidating. Even when I'm making a recipe as familiar as those dinner rolls, I treat the yeast with great respect. Soften it in water that's too cool and the yeast won't bloom and make the dough rise. Or, as in my first yeast baking experience years ago, if you figure the hotter the better, you kill the yeast. Believe me, only Jesus could have made those poor cinnamon buns rise. When I read that parable, I consider the many places in scripture where faith is referred to as leaven. Faith is a powerful force, a gift that is meant to be treasured. I ask for grace and wisdom so that my faith is a force that is working to bring the kingdom of heaven, not something just for my own self comfort, or worse, self-righteousness.
You probably have a completely different image, that's wonderful. That's the beauty of parables; they are our insight into "what has lain hidden since the foundation of the world." In my human understanding, I am incapable of understanding God's plan for this age and the next, but, miraculously, I can catch a glimpse in rows of sugar snap peas.
Editor's note: Ellen Sargent is a long-time resident of the Marquette area and member of the Catholic Church. She is married to Mining Journal Managing Editor Bud Sargent.