In today's Gospel, we listen as Jesus relates three parables about the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God) that He has come establish on earth. We Catholics understand that this Kingdom is already mysteriously present in the Catholic Church, but it has not yet reached its fullness. It is partial and mixed now, but it will be perfect at the end of time. Let's look closely at what Jesus has to say about the Kingdom.
In His first parable, He tells the story of a farmer who sowed a nice crop of wheat in his field, but later that night, his enemy arrived and planted weeds among the wheat. The farmer and his servants were shocked when the crop began to grow and they discovered that they were getting a lot more than their expected wheat. But the farmer was wise. When his servants asked him if they could pull out the weeds, he told them to wait because they might end up pulling out the wheat, too. At harvest time, he assured them, it would be easy to separate the weeds from the wheat. They would just need to be patient until then.
Isn't that true of the Kingdom of Heaven as it is present in the Church today? People are often angry at the Church, forgetting Jesus' message that it is filled with both weeds and wheat for now. The Church itself is holy, but certainly its members on earth are weak and often sinful. We should not, therefore, be shocked when we hear of scandals and trials. Jesus has warned us that such things will exist. The enemy has planted his weeds, and for now the Lord tolerates them. But at the end of time, when He returns, He will separate the weeds from the wheat, and then the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church, will be perfect. We have to learn to be patient and, as much as we can, try to turn the weeds into wheat though our prayers and our love.
We can also apply this parable to ourselves as individuals. Isn't it true that there are both weeds and wheat inside of us? We soar to the heights of prayer. We drop to the depths of sin. We can be gentle, loving, and kind and then turn around and be resentful, snappish, and angry. At one moment, our lives can seem perfect. In the next, the bottom drops out, and we flounder in frustration and near despair. Weeds and wheat. Our lives here on earth are full of both.
In His second parable, Jesus explains that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. Mustard seeds are very, very tiny, so small as to seem insignificant and unable to produce any real effects. But plant one and prepare to be surprised! The bush that appears from that little bitty seed is huge, so big that, as Jesus says, birds can make their nests in it. What a contrast between that small seed and its large result!
Like the mustard seed, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Church, started out very, very small, just a handful of men and women in an insignificant outpost of the Roman empire. But Christianity spread rapidly. On the first Pentecost, only fifty days after Jesus' Resurrection, the apostles baptized three thousand people, and before too many more years had passed, the faith had made its way across the Roman empire from one end to the other and even beyond. Today, the Church is present in nearly every country on earth. Talk about growth!
Even in our own lives, we sometimes see mustard seeds grow into huge bushes. A little act of kindness, for instance, can have far-reaching effects, beyond what we are even aware of. We need to make sure that we are continually planting little mustard seeds of God's love wherever we go and trusting in Him to make them grow according to His will.
In his third parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to yeast that a woman uses to leaven dough. Yeast are tiny creatures, but they are very active. They can make a flat mixture of flour, water, and other ingredients rise into a great puffy dough that, when baked, is a tender, light, delicious bread. They are pretty powerful little things! The Kingdom of Heaven is like that, too. Like we said before, it started out small, but it is so powerful that it has spread through the entire world and made it rise up from darkness and expand into the light.
We, too, can rise up from darkness and expand into the light if only we open our hearts to the power of the Kingdom of Heaven and allow Jesus to work like leaven in our lives.
Jesus, in Your parables, You teach us the secrets of Your Kingdom. Open our minds and hearts to Your teaching that by meditating on it, we may grow ever closer to You and take our proper place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.