From small beginnings come great endings – 17th week in ordinary time – Mt 13:31-35

Chapter 13 of the Gospel according to Matthew is the third of the five blocks of teaching found in this Gospel. This block of teaching is called the ‘Parable Discourse’ and consists of seven parables. Matthew who is the great systematiser of Jesus’ teachings arranges his material in numbers of three or seven. There are seven articles in the Lord’s prayer, seven  demons in  12:45, seven loaves  in 15:34, seven baskets of scraps left over, seven brothers in 22:25, seven woes against the Pharisees in chapter 23 and we are asked to forgive seventy times seven.

We are now in the third of the seven parables of the kingdom found in chapter 13 and already one has seen that the kingdom of God cannot be boxed into a set of predictable characteristics for it is ‘this and much more’.  While the previous parable of the weed and wheat reminds us that the kingdom will face opposition, Jesus also gives us parables of hope for the Kingdom of God will also expand despite opposition.

Today’s readings contain two parables of expansion of the kingdom; one outward (the mustard seed) and one inward (the parable of the yeast). While the parable of the mustard seed reminds us that even a tiny seed like the mustard can explode into the greatest of shrubs for all to see, the parable of the yeast reminds us that the kingdom can grow silently inward, like yeast that is mixed in flour.

From small beginnings come great endings, this is what we are reminded of today. While the example of the mustard seed is obvious the parable of the yeast may not be so. At the time of Jesus, leaven rather than the tided English translation, yeast, was used to prove bread. Leaven was a rotting, moulding lump of bread which was mixed into three measures of flour, enough to feed a hundred people.

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