In today’s Gospel from Luke 13:18-21, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed and yeast. Each of these elements are not only small, but they are tiny. With the proper environment, resources of sustenance, water, and sunlight, this seed will germinate, sprout, and grow into a large bush. Yeast, a single-cell organism, is the catalyst for assisting dough to rise, strengthen, and ferment, thus providing a more appealing and tasty bread.
Jesus offered these simple examples from everyday agrarian life that his listeners understood from experience. If we have planted seeds or made our own homemade bread, we could be in a better position to relate to these two small parables as well. Throughout the Gospel Jesus worked in small ways, person to person. Jesus’ interaction happened concretely, through the of breaking bread together, walking along the road together, sharing stories, teaching, healing and exorcising with his touch, and he still does so today. The smallest, genuine act of kindness or love can seem insignificant and may even go unnoticed, but it is important to the individual encounter and, can show dramatic results over time.
There is a story that expresses this point called, “A Simple Gesture” from the story collection, Chicken Soup for the Soul. The short tale describes how one day a boy named Mark was walking home from school and came upon another boy who had tripped and dropped all of his books, two sweaters, his bat, glove and tape recorder. Mark offered to help carry some of the load of the other boy, who, as they walked home, found out was named Bill. They talked about common interests and when they approached Bill’s home, Bill invited Mark in for a Coke and to watch some T.V. They spent the afternoon together, then interacted on occasion for the rest of their middle school and into their high school years.
Three weeks prior to their graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill shared that the reason he had been carrying all of that stuff home that day was because he didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else to clean up. He had saved some of his mother’s sleeping pills and had planned to commit suicide. Bill shared that, after their original encounter and afternoon together, he realized if he had killed himself that day he would have missed more opportunities to talk and laugh. Bill finished the conversation by saying, “So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life” (Canfield and Hansen, 35-36).
Personal encounter was how Jesus helped others to realize that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Mark, in committing a random act of kindness for Bill, showed how this can still be true today. Like a modern day Good Samaritan parable, “A Simple Gesture”, helps us to see that when we are aware of opportunities to help and act upon them, no matter how small, with genuine care, we can have a dramatic affect on another’s life. The opposite is also true.
Many people have a lot on their plate, we may not be aware of even half of what others are going through. That is why we need to be attentive to the move of the Spirit in our lives. We need to make an effort to be aware to notice others and the move of the Spirit leading us out beyond ourselves. In doing so, we become like the mustard seed, or the yeast, in another’s life. Through a smile, a hello, a bent ear to listen, what may appear to be miniscule or mundane in the moment, may in fact be life changing and transforming.
Photo: Planning prayer with my classmate and brother Pete at husband/wife retreat during formation at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center.
Canfield, Jack and Mark Victor Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1993.