In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed and yeast. Each of these elements is not only small but they are tiny. Though with the proper environment, resources of sustenance, water, and sunlight, this seed will germinate, sprout, and grow into a large bush. Yeast, a single-celled 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 Gospels, Jesus lives out the parables by engaging person to person. Jesus’ interactions happened concretely, through walking along the road and breaking of bread together, sharing stories, teaching, healing, and exorcising demons 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 by many, but it is important to the individual and can reveal 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 and many other items. 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 middle school and into their high school years.
Three weeks before their graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill shared that the reason that he had been carrying all of that stuff home on the day they had first met was because he didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else to clean up. Bill had planned to commit suicide that evening. Bill continued to share that, after their original encounter and afternoon together, he realized that 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 encounters were how Jesus helped others to realize that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Mark, in making the effort to help Bill pick up some of the personal items that he had dropped, helped to shift the momentum away from a potential suicide attempt. This action shows how Jesus can continue to work through us 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 with genuine care, no matter how small, we can have a dramatic effect 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 Holy Spirit in our lives. He will lead us out beyond ourselves so that we notice others. 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 minuscule or mundane at the moment, may, in fact, be life-changing and transforming.
Photo: Back when we were still dating! Without JoAnn’s consistent kindness, caring, and support, I would not be where I am today.
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.