Jesus tells three parables concerning the kingdom of God in this Sunday’s Gospel reading: the weeds and the wheat, the mustard seed and the yeast. Each parable has a slightly different emphasis. First, the kingdom grows up in this world along with the resident evil in the world until the wheat reaches a full harvest. Secondly, the kingdom has just as insignificant beginnings as a mustard seed. Third, the kingdom transforms everything it touches as leaven transforms mere flour into luscious bread.
Scripture scholars often translate the Greek word in the Gospel as the “reign of God” rather than the “kingdom of God.” “Kingdom” is a static notion indicating a place where God dwells whereas “reign” dynamically indicates a relationship with God. This scholarly preference shows that we achieve our salvation in the midst of a sinful world. We understand that our journey is embedded in lives that are largely insignificant to the world. Finally, the working of the reign of God quietly transforms both us and the world.
Jesus says, “… the kingdom of God is among you,” or the “reign of God is among you” (Lk 17:21). Since this reign is not some far off place in a distant future, we necessarily must look for this reign in our personal and community lives as present in the here and now. Luke’s description of the reign of God as present now gives new insight into this week’s Gospel.
Now, the image of weeds and wheat emphasizes that in our personal lives the enemy has sown all those minor and annoying bad habits that we have been unable to eradicate. In our community life, we find many weeds or social problems that persist despite our sincere efforts to bring about changes that establish the reign of the common good. We must accept the presence of all those weeds and await the final harvest.
Similarly, this reign of God starts in the smallest way. Sometimes we are not aware that the seed of God’s reign has been planted within us early in life and awaits its full flowering as we mature and age. The early disciples were hardly important, powerful people of their time, but because they preached the Gospel, Christ’s message spread throughout the world.
Finally, from yeast and flour we get bread; a transformation far beyond expectations takes place. It is important to realize that an even more significant transformation occurs in our personal spiritual life because of our attempts to live out the Gospel. The Christian community as a social structure functions as the yeast to enhance humanity. God’s word leavens our efforts to live the Gospel so that we may transform humanity day by day into something new and wonderful.
Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House, Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.