Holy Cross Mass and Homily for July 19, 2020

Read Deacon Phil's Homily

Read Deacon Phil's homily for Sunday, July 19. If you missed today's Mass, you can view it here on our YouTube channel.

It’s true that the kingdom of heaven is the hope of eternal life, but according to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven is not only something in our future. It’s here already, planted like a seed in the hearts of those who believe, and in the Church. It may be hidden, like the seed under the soil or the yeast folded into the dough, but it is here, nevertheless. And Jesus promised that what is now concealed will someday be revealed. 

The time we live in is a time of waiting between the planting and the harvest, that is. Between Jesus’ first coming and his return. But during that time, those who follow Jesus are expected to do some things. We can continue the work of Jesus by spreading the seeds of the kingdom. When we love our neighbor, when we feed the hungry, when we talk about our faith with others, we are planting seeds. 

But there is one thing we are not to do, and that is to judge others. That means we are not allowed to try to determine who are the “wheat” and who are the “weeds.” As our First reading says, we are to treat others with leniency and kindness. The psalm calls us to be forgiving. In fact, forgiving others is another way to plant the seeds of the kingdom. Judgment is God’s job, and even He is not yet doing it because there is still time for conversion -  as long as one is alive, there is still time to turn to God. So keep spreading those seeds.  

So why add the parable of the leaven, that is, the yeast. I think the leaven is the transforming power of Christ and his kingdom in the life of the individual and of the world. We cannot see the leaven working inside the dough, but the work of the leaven is always going on. The work of the kingdom is drawing men and the world ever nearer to God. 

The whole point of this little parable lies in one thing – the transforming power of the leaven. Leaven changes the character of the whole baking process. Unleavened bread is like a water biscuit, hard, dry, unappetizing and uninteresting. Bread baked with yeast is soft and porous and spongy, tasty, and good to eat. The introduction of the leaven causes a transformation in the dough; and the coming of the Kingdom causes a transformation in life in each of us. 

So why did Jesus bring in the example of a mustard plant. He indicates it begins as a tiny seed the size of a grain of sand. It turns out this is a sign of how faith begins in our hearts. It’s a little seed representing the beginning of our trust in God, i.e., our gift of Faith.

This particular parable has long baffled me. My experience with mustard plants has been these 5 to 6 foot weeds in crop fields in the Midwest. With a little digging into the facts in preparing for today, I discovered mustard’s native area is in the eastern Mediterranean area There they tend to be 20 to 25 feet tall trees. Apparently birds of that region love to rest and settle in them. The mustard tree parable tells us that faith in the power of the kingdom starts very small in our hearts. It grows in strength as we witness the Lord’s work in our lives and in the lives of others. Hopefully that faith grows within us and within our church towards being a family of brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Perhaps we in our little Holy Cross Church are called to spiritually nourish our brothers and sisters here as one body in unity and peace. Especially now in these challenging times. We can become like a sheltering tree that brings comfort and consolation. Perhaps there will be others attracted to this tree so as to rest in the Lord and live with Christ here now and forever. I visualize this just like our Acacia Tree symbol. Amen.   

– Deacon Phil Rzewnicki, OFS

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