17th Week in Ord. Time, Monday – 27th July 2020 — Gospel: Mt 13,31-35
Triumph of God’s dominion
Often the two parables of the mustard seed and the yeast have been sadly reduced to remarkable growth arising from insignificant beginnings. The parable of the mustard seed is set among the parables emphasizing abundant harvests. But this parable focuses on the shrub that is sturdy enough to house the nests of birds. This idea overlooks the parabolic difficulties it poses, because to say it becomes the “greatest of shrubs” is faint praise and to call it a “tree” can be hyperbolic irony. For the growth of the mustard seed is closer to being a weed than wheat or tree. The better choice is the cedar tree. Eze 17,23 states that the “noble cedar” provides the kind of shelter the birds’ need. Therefore Jesus is providing a stark and surprising contrast here. In the same way, the parable of the yeast could be said as misnamed. What Jesus is talking about is the functioning of leaven which is rotting, molding a lump of bread, while yeast remains always small in quantity. The image of yeast is a negative symbol of corruption (Mt 16,6; cfr.1 Cor 5,8). Therefore the parable suggests that opposition may come even from within. The only thing more astounding in this parable is that the woman uses “three measures” of wheat, enough to make bread to feed more than 100 people. Jesus’ usage of these two images seems more contrary to the realities and cultural perspectives. Yet the mustard seed and leaven parables highlight the ultimate triumph of God’s dominion. The dominion of God is being present in hidden and unexpected ways, and proves sometimes beyond worldly standards and scandalous ways.