“And if you greet only your own people,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)
If the kingdom of God is like leaven, Jesus’ teaching is absolutely revolutionary. In the ancient Israelite world, leaven — today’s yeast — was a symbol of corruption. Modern English usage has given it a positive sense — fermentation and new life. But for the people of Israel, leaven was the archetype of corruption. It symbolized the unholy, the profane, of everyday life. . . .
The usual image of leaven as the symbol of corruption is used in this parable to emphasize the negative aspect — or what seems like the negative aspect — of the kingdom. For one thing, the parable questions the hearers’ easy assumption of the predictability of what is good and what is evil. It confronts their preconceptions regarding where goodness is to be found. In this respect, it coheres with the parable of the good Samaritan where the boundaries of social stratification are dramatically subverted. The Samaritan, the Israelite’s epitome of the bad guy, turns out to be a hero.
In this parable, an even more profound boundary is being challenged. Can evil be good? Recalling Jesus’ custom of reaching out in table fellowship with the outcasts of society, the kingdom of God is revealed to be active in marginal people and in the marginalized. Where is the kingdom if it is not in the holy, the sacred, and the acceptable places? Jesus, by his example and preaching, says, “Look for it in the most unexpected places.” According to the parables, the kingdom of God is free to appear anywhere, any time, and under any guise. It does not fit into our presuppositions or expectations, and still less, our demands. In fact, it deliberately removes, prop by prop, everything holding up our ideas of the nature of the kingdom and where it is to be found.
— Thomas Keating in The Kingdom of God Is Like . . .
More often than not, it’s easy to love our family. It’s easy to love our friends. It’s easier to love people who are like us than people who are different. Want to act like Jesus. Love someone today who you don’t like. Maybe someone who is different than you. Maybe someone whose values are different than yours. What would that love look like?
Love in Christ,
The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.
M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General
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