Today’s gospel from Luke (13:18-21) has Jesus talking about mustard seeds and leaven as things that grow or cause expansion, often without notice. On occasion many years ago, I was charged in the convent kitchen with “punching” the dough a few times in its process of rising to get the air out until it’s ready to be baked. I know from that practice the importance of the yeast as an essential ingredient in the success of the bread-making process. Just a little packet does the job and without it, the whole enterprise falls flat – literally.
Even more amazing to me has been my astonishment over the years of living in the country when suddenly during a spring season I have come upon a tree that seems to have doubled in size since the end of the previous summer. The first time I noticed it, the tree looked as if a geyser had spurted out a whole new story of a house on top of what was there when the winter had begun. It was amazing and made me begin to look much more closely at the trees.
I keep thinking of the question that engendered the comparison Jesus was making with the growth of mustard seeds and leavened dough. He was trying to explain what the “kingdom of God” was like. Another famous mention of the kingdom of God came to mind as I wrote. He also said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” More and more I am convinced that, if we are trying to respond to opportunities to be our best selves, our day-to-day living will be the leaven. The “invisible” growth resulting from our efforts toward love will suddenly, perhaps, become visible to us as a more peaceful, hopeful attitude that will allow us to maintain a sense of stability (like the trees) in all seasons of our lives. It isn’t as if we aren’t trying all the time but rather that we don’t always notice the results along the way. And maybe that’s the point of it all. It’s in the doing that the energy is released, not in the search for a satisfying result. I guess we have to just follow the advice of Teilhard de Chardin who urged that we “above all, trust in the slow work of God.”