Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (José Antonio Pagola)

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The importance of what is small

Christianity has been hurt over the centuries by triumphalism, the thirst for power and the craving to impose upon its adversaries. There are still Christians who remember with nostalgia a powerful Church that fills churches, seizes streets and imposes its religion on the entire society.

We should read again the two small parables in which Jesus makes clear that the task of his followers is not to build a powerful religion, but rather to place themselves at the service of the Father’s humanizing project (the kingdom of God), sowing the tiny Gospel “seeds” and inserting themselves into the society as a small portion of “leaven” of human life.

The first parable speaks of a mustard seed that is sown in the garden. What is so special about this seed? It is the smallest of seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of the vegetable plants. The Father’s project has lowliest beginnings, but we cannot imagine yet its transforming power.

Jesus’ activity in Galilee of sowing acts of goodness and justice is not at all grandiose or spectacular: neither Rome nor the Temple authorities in Jerusalem are aware of what is going on. The work that we followers of Jesus accomplish today is insignificant; the centers of power do not know it.

We Christians may even think that that it is useless to work for a better world: human beings time and again commit the same usual horrors. We are incapable of grasping the slow growth of God’s kingdom.

The second parable speaks of a woman who puts a bit of yeast in large flour dough. Without anybody knowing how it happens, the yeast keeps working silently on the dough until the whole batch is leavened.

That is what happens with God’s humanizing project. Once it is mixed in with the world, it keeps transforming human history quietly. God’s action is not one of imposition from outside. He humanizes the world by enticing the consciences of his children to a life of fellowship that is more dignified and fair.

We should put our trust in Jesus. The kingdom of God is something lowly and small in its beginnings, but God is already working among us, fostering solidarity, the longing for truth and justice, the yearning for a happier world. We must partner with him by following Jesus.

A Church that is less powerful, more devoid of privileges, poorer and closer to the poor, will always be a Church with more freedom to sow the seeds of the Gospel, and with greater humility to live in the midst of the people as the leaven of a more dignified life of brotherhood and sisterhood.

José Antonio Pagola

July 20, 2014
16 Ordinary Time (A)
Matthew 13, 24-43

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