Today’s readings bring up rhetorical questions -- you know, when you ask questions that you’ve thought about, but you want your students or your audience or your readers to think along with you. Here’s one: Why, given the pain and gloom about “the sufferings of this present time” in the first reading from the Letter to the Romans, do we sing in today’s Psalm: “The Lord has done marvels for us,” and “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed”?
Each day’s Psalm is supposed to respond to the first reading, and to lead us to hear the Good News in the Gospel. So how does this work? Today’s reading from Romans sounds gloomy, and mournful – and sadly appropriate to “the sufferings of this present time” in our world, with all its violence, terrorism, corruption, fraud, etc. We know we suffer, and Romans says: “We also groan within ourselves as we wait…” The Psalm includes sadness and labor: “They go forth weeping.” But it also says they “come back rejoicing carrying their sheaves.”
As we continue, we hear Jesus pose rhetorical questions in the Gospel. “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it?” By “kingdom,” I understand something like the Reign of God, God ruling, God’s will being done – as it plainly isn’t done in this world of suffering, violence, terrorism, corruption, fraud, etc.
Then Jesus answers his own rhetorical questions with marvelous images: the tiny seed that grows into the large bush, the yeast that transforms the flour into an abundance of bread. We know this, that a small thing can have a big effect, as we have known a suggestion, a hope, an idea – followed – to lead to a whole career or way of life. From a chance meeting comes a fruitful relationship; from a small kindness comes – well, salvation. To me, this is about Faith and Hope – especially that my little faith and smaller abilities may yet help build “the Kingdom of Heaven.” So although I continue to weep and groan, I pray each day, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
My final rhetorical question for today was going to be: What can I do today that might be the seed or the bit of yeast that will grow into the Kingdom for others? That’s a good question, and may be the right question for my readers. But – true confession here! – having considered this Gospel, I’ve discovered the question truly rhetorical (because I have an answer) that I’ve been trying to avoid -- that I am finally asking myself today is: What apparently little thing must I change in my life so that God may Reign in me?
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