Today’s readings in the Holy Mass may make us uncomfortable if we take them to heart. The Old Testament and the New Testament both make use of parables. In the first reading, the loin cloth that God tells Jeremiah to wear and then to bury represents the chosen People of God. God made them as close to Himself as a loincloth is to the body. But in their stubbornness and pride, the People of God rejected Him. Therefore they rotted away just as the buried loincloth did.
The psalm drives the point home. How easy it is to forget God and to forsake the Covenant! We need to be constantly on guard against the stubbornness and pride that leads us away from God. I never want to hear God say about me,
“I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“and see what will then become of them.
What a fickle race they are,
sons with no loyalty in them!”
Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Matthew aren’t quite so pointed. But they do point a barb. The mustard plant and yeast have a few things in common.
1. They are both so small as to seem insignificant
2. They are both common and ordinary – again, seeming insignificant.
3. They both have a HUGE effect.
Jesus’ message was that the Kingdom of God does not belong to the rich and powerful. He was probably referring to the Scribes and Pharisees, who considered themselves holy because of their learning and their authority. His parable can therefore be understood as saying that the Kingdom belongs to the small and ordinary (but faithful) believer rather than to the powerful, learned (but often hypocritical) temple officials.
But he may also have been poking holes in the Jewish expectation that the Messiah would come as a powerful king who would conquer their earthly enemies and make Israel a great nation once again. Jesus’ parable can be understood to mean that the Kingdom of God on earth will start small and insignificant, as the Church really did, but will grow to eternal significance.
Either way, the important lesson from today’s readings seems to be faithfulness to God.