Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany celebrated after Pentecost--10 November AD 2013

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

Man dwarfed by mustard bush[1]

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed....”
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven....”[2]

    When we think of creation we tend to think of material creation—things like leaven and mustard seeds on the small scale, on up to planets, and stars, and galaxies at the large end.    We know that all of these things were brought into existence, out of nothing, by an act of God's divine will.     We sometimes forget that God also created a spiritual universe in much the same way.    The angels are created beings, and we humans are created beings in both our bodies and our souls.

    The nature of material things is that they are composite, made of many parts which tend to separate, to wear down, and eventually to give out.    Spiritual things are different in that they have nothing to break.    Even though they were created at some point in time, they will last forever—we say they are immortal.    We know that at some point in time, all material things will be destroyed.    The Apocalypse suggests that they will be replaced with a “new heaven and a new earth”[3]    but there is nothing to suggest that anything of the old will survive the transition to the new.

    As human beings we have come to understand the reality of death—“seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty if we are strong.”[4] —so the warning of the Apocalypse doesn't concern us a great deal—our own personal end will probably come long before any making of a “new earth.” We also know that our Lord has promised eternal life to " those who believe and are baptized.”[5]

    The Gospel today gives us a metaphor of how we are to use the things available to us—material and spiritual—to ensure a share in that eternal life.

    The mustard seed is a tiny thing.    It looks like the little black poppy seeds on a kaiser role, but smaller and lighter.    It is blown about by the wind, and carried about even by the smallest animals.    And as our Lord points out, this tiny seed sprouts and grows into a bush the size of a tree.    The mustard seed reminds us of the Catholic Church.    The Church of Jesus Christ has grown from His teachings to a small band of Apostles, who were scattered about the known world, ultimately to have an effect on all the continents and peoples of the world.    It is particularly remarkable that this growth has taken place even though the Church expects discipline and virtue in Her members, while many competing religions have relied on making life sensual as a means of recruiting.    Indeed, the Church is generally successful in proportion to the asceticism She demands, and tends to wither when She relaxes her standards.

    Leaven is another seemingly trivial thing that also has tremendous effect.    It is a living and growing organism, so a little bit is capable of leavening a large mass of dough.    More than that, a bit of that dough will serve to leaven the next batch, and so on, indefinately.    It also helps to preserve the bread from other organisms that might spoil it.    The people of our Lord's time did something similar to preserve milk and grape juice as yogurt and wine.    The presence of leaven in all three foods tended to keep them from organisms that would cause them to spoil.

    These leavened foods should remind us of three things: sanctifying grace, the holy Sacraments, and the word of God.    Each of these is necessary for us as individual members of the Church.    Each will grow in us, and transform us so that we are resistant to the power of evil.

    We hear the word of God through our reading of the Sacred Scriptures and through the traditions and authoritative teachings of the Church, and even in the sermons and homilies we hear at holy Mass.    This word is necessary so that we might know what is expected of us to please God.    This will include the Commandments we are expected to keep, the works of mercy we are expected to perform, and the ways in which we may obtain a share in His spiritual life.    Remember that the material part of us is transient, and we should strive to be more and more spiritual.

    The second leaven is found in the holy Sacraments.    If you consider all seven of them, it is possible to see a path that leads from spiritual birth, through spiritual life in the world, and on to the final preparations for eternal life.    Through the Sacraments our natural and material life is made a holy life and we are prepared for God under any circumstance.    Not only are we prepared for heaven, but we are enabled to live our entire life with God.    Of special importance here are sacramental Confession and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with frequent Holy Communion.    “If you do not eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life in you.”[6]

    The third leaven I referred to is sanctifying grace.    Obviously this flows from God's word and from His Sacraments.    But it should also flow from personal acts of prayer and devotion.    The public worship of the Church is important, but a life of personal prayer is necessary to complement our public acts.    The Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary are essentials of the spiritual life.    And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to combine them with the meditations on the Life of Jesus and Mary which make up the Rosary.

    So, in today's Gospel we see the confluence of material creation with the spiritual creation.    Our Lord uses the symbolism of simple things—the mustard seed and leaven—to remind us of the things of the spiritual life: Holy Mother Church, sanctifying grace, the holy Sacraments, and the word of God.     All four are necessary to prepare us for life with God.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed....”
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven....”

Dei via est íntegra
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