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Year of Faith Reflection: Salt, Light and Leaven. Seeds of God's Kingdom in the Garden of the World

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 30th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There is a missionary meaning to this parable in this Year of Faith. We are seed, in His Holy, blood stained Hands, being spread into the world He still loves. That world which he created, is being re-created in and through Him. We are living seeds of the Kingdom in the garden of the world.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The Gospel for Daily Mass on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, is taken from St. Luke's account of the parables of the Kingdom of God:

"Jesus said, "What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches."

"Again he said, "To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened." (Luke 13: 18 - 21)

The images of leaven and seed reflect our reality. St. Jose Maria Escriva wrote: "May Our Lord be able to use us so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world - and at the same time placed in God - we become salt, leaven and light. Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth and new life. But don't forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it." (St. Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, 250)

St. Matthew elaborates on the challenges we face: "Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart."
 
"The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away."

"The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."(Matt. 13: 1-23)

We are both the soil and the seed. The Living Word has been sown within us and we are to cultivate the ground of our hearts so that we can be transformed in the Lord and more fully and completely reflect His Image and Likeness.This is the Christian vocation. We are all called to grow in holiness and progressively reflect the risen life of Jesus Christ.

There is also a missionary meaning, of special importance as we consider our call to New Evangelization and the Year of Faith.We are seed, in His Holy, blood stained Hands, being spread into the world He still loves. That world which he created, is being re-created in and through Him. We are living seeds of the Kingdom in the garden of the world.

Other images used by the Lord to communicate this issionary insight are also found in Matthews Gospel, salt and light: "Jesus said to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden."

"Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matt. 5: 13 - 16)

The reference to light is meant to call to mind the words of the Lord, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) We are bearers of the light of Christ who have been sent into a world which is walking in the twilight. 

We have been baptized into Jesus Christ. He now lives His life in us - and we live our lives in Him. We live in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. The Father still loves the world and gives His Son to save it. (John 3: 16)  That gift continues through you and me.

As Christians we are called to love the world as God loves the world. Jesus Christ continues His redemptive mission in and through us! He has placed us in the world with a purpose. Jesus now walks into the world through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. We live in the Church and go into the world.

One of the titles that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council ascribed to the Church (found in early patristic literature) is the "the world reconciled." That same Council reaffirmed the ancient Patristic Image of the Church as a seed of the kingdom.

Some of the confusion concerning our relationship to the world comes from the remnants of one of the early heresies in Christian history, Manichaeism. The followers of that error believed that all matter was evil. That is NOT the Christian belief. We profess in our Creed a belief in a bodily resurrection and the coming of a new heaven and new earth! 

Yet this error of viewing matter as evil and the world, by extension, as a place to be avoided, still infects and can lead to a kind "ghetto mentality" whereby Christians withdraw from the world. Some of the confusion can also come from failing to understand the differing ways the phrase "the world" is used in the New Testament.

There is "the world" that God created and looked upon and said "it is good". (See e.g. Genesis, chapter 1). That world is still good. It is filled with beauty and reflects the Divine artist and architect who made it. That world He entrusted to the crown of his creation - man and woman. 

Then there is a system, the culture of death and use, which has squeezed God out of His rightful place and substituted idols. That system is also called "the world" in the bible. (See, e.g. James 4:4). We are not to "love" that world, in the sense of giving ourselves over to its dominion. We are to reject that system in order to free those enchained by its lies.

The Father wants to bring the entire human race back into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Chris, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who live in Jesus Christ, by living in the Church which is His Body, are sent on mission into the world in order to bring all men and women into the new world of the Church.

The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from the life of God within us. It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. However, the power contained within that yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough.

Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but how it transforms that loaf! So it is with Christians within human culture! The power within us is the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead (See Romans 8:11)! All we are asked to do is to mix it up. We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.

Leaven that is not used in time spoils and loses its capacity to ferment that dough; it must be active or it becomes useless. That leaven must be in the dough to effect its extraordinary change. So it is with all of us. We must be "in the world" to effect its transformation. Once hidden in the loaf, leaven always raises the dough. It also takes human effort - it must be kneaded and worked into the loaf.

So it is with our lives of faith. Faith is a verb, it must be exercised. By living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world we bring the world back to God. This kind of missionary mindset has inspired great missionary ages in the past and brought extraordinary changes to entire cultures. It can once again! However, it always begins one person, one grain, at a time.

The seed of the kingdom, the living Word, has been planted within us. And now, we become the seed, the salt and the leaven for the Divine Sower who continues His redemptive mission in a world waiting to be reborn in Him.He now spreads us in the field of the world to bear a harvest for the Kingdom to come.

We are called to live at the crossroads of the world as leaven of the new world of which the Church is a seed and sign. This way of life is what the New Evangelization is about. This new reality should guide our participation in the Year of Faith.

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