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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 31, 2023
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Carmel of St. Teresa of Jesus in Little Rock on Monday, July 31, 2023. It is based on the readings from Monday of the17th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle I.
Today we have the very familiar parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, both of which have to do with the remarkable growth of the Kingdom of God from very small beginnings. We have seen this play out quite literally in Jesus and in our own lives.
Jesus started out as a single lone voice sent by the Father to proclaim the Kingdom of God and like with a mustard seed, there was life within him right from the beginning just waiting to grow and bear fruit. That conviction of what God the Father was asking of him grew within Jesus over the course of the next 30 years and burst forth especially with the beginning of his public ministry.
Soon it grew to include others: 12 apostles, 72 disciples, growing crowds. Over the years this growing bush that we call the Church has been subjected to repeated setbacks — some of which have been self-inflicted — only to emerge from these prunings with renewed vigor and even greater growth, to the point that now one-third of humanity is Christian and 20 percent is Catholic.
Years ago the Lord planted into each of your hearts the seed of a religious vocation and he has worked it into your soul like a woman working yeast into the dough, gradually, gently. Dough that will eventually become a delicious loaf that will delight and nourish all who share in its goodness.
But notice — and this is the main point I would like to make today — this growth is not only about quantity but also about quality. The yeast that the woman in our parable worked into the dough didn’t just make the resulting loaf of bread increase in size. It also transformed the dough. Most of us have eaten unleavened bread, matza and we know how tasteless it is.
Like yeast, the word of God transforms us, fills us with joy already in this life, not just in the next. Over the course of the last 2,000 years the Lord has used his Church to transform society. Look at St. Paul’s lists of self-destructive vices which must now be abandoned and the joy-producing virtues that must be embraced by those who would become Christians.
The Church has converted and civilized barbarians, our ancestors, improving their lives — and ours — immensely. We founded hospitals and schools where there had been none and have improved the morality and customs of every culture in which the faith has taken root. This growth has been gradual but obvious if you look back over time. Sort of like watching that yeast transform the dough. Come back after a while you will see a change. The transforming power of the word of God operates like that.
Years ago the Lord planted into each of your hearts the seed of a religious vocation and he has worked it into your soul like a woman working yeast into the dough, gradually, gently. Dough that will eventually become a delicious loaf that will delight and nourish all who share in its goodness. Your awareness of that call may have started out small and Jesus may have planted it in you when you yourself were small, but it has grown within you, and even has begun to multiply through you as a seminarian.
For instance through your work on our evangelization teams and the initiatives you have taken to invite others to consider whether the Lord might be calling them to a religious vocation too. In these and other ways you have already begun to bear good fruit for the Lord.
And like with Jesus, you can look forward to this really taking off in a big way with the beginning of your public ministry following ordination. At times you may feel overwhelmed by the realization that like Jesus you’re just one tiny voice called to proclaim the counter-culture truth of the Kingdom of God in what can seem like an immense, often very dark and even hostile world: But there’s life within you just waiting to burst forth!
Yeast within already transforming you capable of transforming the society in which we live. And anyway, it’s God who will be acting through you and there’s no limit to what he can do. I see growth in every one of you, which fills me with joy and great hope for the future.
Jesus was just a single voice at first, and the kingdom he came to proclaim started out as a single mustard seed which has grown into a large plant and is still growing, a bit of yeast that over the course of the last 2,000 years has already transformed one-third of our world; one-third of the dough.
But there’s still two-thirds left to go, and that original one-third still needs a lot of work. And so the Lord sends us forth with joy to continue his work of building the Kingdom of God!