Unshakable foundation

The Gospels are a treasure trove. Sometimes what may seem like a minor detail can speak volumes or take Jesus’ message even deeper. However, we need to be on the watch for these jewels and when we see them, go back and ponder them, looking at them from different perspectives. Last Saturday’s reading offered one of those gems.

The second portion of Luke’s Gospel caught my attention.  It was about the two foundations (Lk 6:46-49). Because the example given captures our imagination, it’s very easy to skim over the initial words of Jesus, “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.” The example of the two foundations that follows, while helpful, is only in support of what He expects of us. He makes it very clear that if we call out ‘Lord,’ yet remain trapped in our own selfish needs and do not listen, He cannot help us. He states three specific steps that we need to take.

Since Jesus is no longer visible on earth, how is it that He expects us to come to Him? The language we use to describe the action required  may include words like turning towards Jesus, seeking Him, reconciling with Him. They all convey an initial action of moving away from our own self-interests and desires. We realize that what we think we want, or even already have, does not satisfy us or bring us peace. This moving beyond ourselves and looking toward Jesus is the first step we need to take.

Our world is full of sounds, which we may or may not hear, simply because there are too many of them. Jesus is asking us to listen to His words. That’s the second step.  Listening takes humility, since we need to park our own thoughts and feelings and concentrate on what is being said. We need to absorb the message of the words and let it infuse our thoughts, words, feelings, and understandings. 

When we turn to Jesus and allow His commands to penetrate deep into our being, our whole outlook changes. This transformation allows us to then act upon what we have pondered in the words we hear from Him. Instead of using our own perspectives as the measure of how we interact with the word, we become like Jesus instead, and bring the kingdom of God to earth in our small way. This action becomes the third step. 

The more we turn away from ourselves and look to Jesus, the more we listen to His calling and respond by acting in harmony with God’s will, the more our foundation is built on the most solid of rocks. Jesus doesn’t promise that we won’t have any storms in our lives, but if we follow His three-step process, we can be assured that no matter the storm’s wind speed or water surge, our house of faith will stay strong.   

Rise up

This past weekend, the gospel reading from Matthew contained several parables. As I was listening, there was one that really jumped out at me, even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times before. Comprising two sentences, this single verse spoke anew to the baker in me.

“He spoke to them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.’”

Matthew 13:33

Whenever you read reflections for this parable, Jesus is the yeast. He is the one causing the growth, and that makes logical sense, especially to one who does not bake. I’m not going to argue with the Church Fathers that this perspective is incorrect, but rather would like to offer another point of view. 

What caught my attention was the precise delineation of the amount of wheat flour: three measures. When details are given in the gospels, they can be easily skimmed over and overlooked, but they often have a deeper meaning. It’s not just that the yeast was added to wheat flour (another precise detail), but a specific count of three. What else comes to mind when we think about the count of three? To me, it was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So if Jesus, the Son, is one of the measures of flour, what then is the yeast? That would be each of us. Think about being mixed with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit until the heavenly kingdom is  leavened, that is, we rise.

The other major detail is that it’s not just any flour that the yeast is mixed with, but rather the flour is from wheat. It is the composition of the wheat flour that gives the yeast the food it needs to be able to do its job of creating carbon dioxide, which causes bread to rise. By itself, yeast can do nothing. It requires food, and only when it has an abundance of food, can it perform to the best of its ability. We require God; our nourishment from having a relationship with Him feeds us so that we can be the best version of ourselves and perform the good works that He asks of us. The more we feed on God, in prayer and in the Sacraments, the more we can leaven the bread of His Kingdom. 

Wheat and bread are common references throughout scripture. Each example illustrates a different aspect of our relationship with God. It’s amazing when you take something so simple as one verse of scripture and in reflection be impacted so powerfully and overwhelmingly, just by looking at it from a different perspective.