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Scripture Reflection - July 23, 2023

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 | Romans 8:26-27 | Matthew 13:24-30

Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York Scripture Reflection

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and

mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leaven."

Matthew 13:33

Jesus opens this passage with three parables about the kingdom of heaven. God’s reign or kin-dom (an alternate metaphor for kingdom meaning the family of God working together for justice and love) may be likened to a man who sows good seed among the weeds and produces a healthy crop of wheat, a tiny mustard seed that grows into a great tree, and thirdly, a woman kneads a small amount of yeast into a large batch of flour and it results in enough bread to feed more than one hundred people.

I will reflect on one of this Sunday’s parables that is often overlooked—the woman and the small bit of yeast. It is the only one of seven parables in chapter 13 that presents a woman as a main character. Yeast is a fermenting agent and added to a batch of dough activates the dough to rise and expand. In this passage, against the prevailing negative image of leaven in many scripture passages, yeast or leaven is a positive life-giving force. According to Joachim Jeremias, in his book on the Parables, three measures of wheat flour equals approximately fifty pounds of flour. As in the parable of the mustard seed, there is a huge contrast between the small amount of leaven and the gigantic result. These results are not the natural and expected. There is something present beyond the control or power of human beings (Harrington, Sacra Pagina).

The message of this parable is clear, the kin-dom, although hidden like a small bit of yeast in a mound of dough, will become through the woman’s effort and God’s activating grace, the bread of life. This and the other kin-dom parables give us hope. They speak of the final victory of the good and despite all appearances that evil and injustice is winning. We, like the woman in the parable, work for the “kin-dom bakery” committed to feeding the body and spirit of our suffering world. We depend not on immediate results or our hard work alone, but the activating grace of our God who works in and through us to make God’s reign present among us in this moment of time.

Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP


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