Three parables about growth

Readings: Wis. 12.13-19; Ps. 86; Rom. 8.26-27; Mt. 13.24-43

The gospel presents three parables about growth: the wheat and weeds which grow simultaneously, the mustard seed which is the smallest of the seeds but becomes a very large plant, and yeast which gives rise and size to bread.

The mustard seed is very small but becomes very large. In the eyes of the world, the mustard seed itself might be very insignificant. But give it time, and this seed bears much fruit. Applying this analogy to the spiritual life, live well with what matters most for the long term. Choose values and behaviors which last and satisfy for a lifetime, and which blossom into a happy eternal life. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

Are there impediments to growth? Yes. Jesus used the parable of wheat and weeds. Wheat and weeds grow at the same time, and in the same place. Applying this farming metaphor to life, we observe that we don't live in a perfect world. Good and evil occur simultaneously. Every person on the face of the earth has been created good in his/her being, but in our behavior everyone does evil at times. We hope for the best, we try for the best, but none of us escapes evil completely. The more important factor is not what we initiate, but what God initiates for us, and that we cooperate with God in the realities of our lives. We live with hope.

When I was a twenty years-old novice in the seminary, we novices took turns cooking on Wednesday afternoon, which was the day off for the professional cook. One classmate and I were assigned to prepare the dinner meal for thirty men. Neither my classmate nor I knew much about cooking. The assigned menu called for beef stroganoff. We found a very large pot, added some water with which to boil the meal, filled the pot to the very top with noodles and beef cubes. We put the lid on. We waited, and watched. As the water began to boil, the lid of the pot started to dance. As the noodles began to swell and expand, the lid of the pot flew off the pot. The pot's contents of noodles and meat cubes, just like a lava flow, surged out of the pot, over the sides, and down onto the stove. We rushed to stop this kitchen volcano. We raced to put the lid back on, but the dinner kept pouring out! We could not even hold the lid in place. The force of nature was erupting inside and bursting outside of the pot. The meal was good, but we had to serve it from the extensive flat surface of the stove.

Like the beef stroganoff dinner and the parable of the yeast, we can't guarantee exactly how growth will take place. Bakers knows they can't guarantee what their final product will look like. Applying the metaphor of cooking to our growth in human Christian life, we observe that life is full of surprises; there are no guarantees in life. Therefore, we live with faith. We envision what we would like to see happen. We all make plans. But we need to be prepared to accept the realities of life. We journey in faith, believing in God and the inherent goodness with which God created each person.

So if your beef stroganoff ever overflows, keep your sense of humor, and with your faith, hope, and love, keep moving forward.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley