Jer 13:1-11; Deuteronomy 32:18-21; Mt 13:31-35
Sometimes the only way we learn the ways of God is to have him hide his face from us. Only when he hides his face do we grow in our longing to see his face. When we take the LORD for granted, it is then that he hides his face. When we think foolishly that we have God all figured out, it is then that he hides his face. Today the liturgy uses a passage from the book of Deuteronomy as a responsorial psalm. In this second proclamation of the Exodus, the voice of the LORD is full of challenge. The LORD reveals to us that we have forgotten the God who gave us birth, through the liberation from slavery and the freedom from idolatry. The LORD is the Rock that begot us; he alone is the source of our birth. When we ignore our divine origins the LORD does not hold back, he is filled with loathing and anger toward his sons and daughters. The divine response to our fickle devotion and lack of loyalty is to withdraw his presence. He leaves us to wallow in our dalliance with our “no-gods.” He seems to abandon us to our vain idols. Indeed, the LORD provokes us to anger, as we become what we have chosen to be a “no-people,” and a foolish nation. The wisdom of the saints teaches us that we become what we worship. If we worship “no-god” we become a “no-people.” Indeed, we become what we love. If we love the illusion of sin, we become that illusion. The wrath of God is that he lets us wallow in our rebellion. The LORD provokes us to anger so that we come to our senses. Although he seems to abandon us, he is always ready to take us back. The LORD is always close at hand and ready to respond to even the slightest desire to repent. Indeed, his grace is available to us so that we even want to want to repent. Blessed be the LORD who speaks through the rotted loincloth of Jeremiah to reveal the truth of our pride, and our need for humility. Blessed be the Lord Jesus who uses parables to break through our illusion of self-sufficiency to reveal his greatness in the midst of our smallness. This is the Lord Christ who comes in response to our daily prayer for our daily bread, the Bread of Life here in this Eucharist.
The LORD God Almighty wants us to cling to him and to be his people, his renown, his praise, and his beauty. However, as in the days of Jeremiah, so too, today we do not listen. The LORD has great plans for us. He wants to reveal his greatness through our greatness, but we persist in following our own ways. We sing the song of our secular culture, “I did it my way.” This is music to our ears; the desire to choose our own ways and to ignore the wisdom of the prophets. So we need to hear again and again the story of Jeremiah’s loincloth. The LORD wants us to cling to him like a loincloth clings to a man. The LORD wants us to find our true dignity in being intimate with him and with his ways. The Prophet is commanded to buy a loincloth and wear it without washing it out. Then he is commanded to hide this soiled garment in a cave. After some time the Prophet is commanded to find the hidden garment. The surprise is not that the loincloth is rotted and useless; the surprise is that this rotten loincloth symbolizes the house of Judah. Who wants to hear this? Who wants to recognize the truth of our pride? This story has the impact of the parables. It takes us by surprise. We are confronted with an unpopular truth about who we really are. We have taken our identity as the chosen people for granted. We have not washed ourselves clean in the Blood of the Lamb. We have grown weary with the struggle to grow in holiness. We even weary our God with our own self-reliance and arrogance. The LORD does not leave us in our lethargy. He sends us Jeremiah and the story of his rotten loincloth to wake us up. He offers us in Christ a new beginning. We are summoned to cling to him for the strength we need to continue living in the light of his gospel. We are summoned to be who we have been made in baptism, in those cleansing and life-giving waters. We are called to be his people, his renown, his praise and his beauty. Through the greatness of his love we are to reveal to the nations his universal call to holiness. This is God’s plan, and it will not be thwarted.
In this liturgy the Lord Jesus proposes a parable for us to consider. The Lord wants us to reconsider our favorite notions of the Kingdom of heaven. His Kingdom is not some membership in a club of the elite and powerful. It is not just a replacement of the kingdom of this world with another kingdom of our own making. His Kingdom is his gift to us, his glory hidden in our daily living out of the mystery of his grace in us. His grace builds on the nature he has given us. We are created in his image and likeness. In our very humanity we have been given the freedom to embrace his glory and to cooperate with his love so that we become one with him. We share in his divinity by grace in the very life of God, which is his by nature. We participate in his divinity as we cooperate with his grace. He makes us new; he makes us like himself. We are the mustard seed he plants and nourishes to grow into a large bush so that all the birds of the sky come to dwell in our branches. We are to shelter and protect the vulnerable people of our world. When we accept this mystery and identify with his Kingdom we grow in ways unexpected and unheard of. In case we missed the point, the Lord Jesus proposes another parable. His Kingdom is like yeast that mixes with the flour of our lives to give rise to the New Bread that will nourish all those who are hungry. We become the food for which our brothers and sisters long. Mustard seeds are so small; they can be easily ignored and lost. Yeast is so tiny; it can be easily put aside and forgotten. So too, the Kingdom of heaven appears to be insignificant in the midst of the many concerns of living in these challenging and troubled times. However, it is the almost forgotten truth of God’s activity in our world that gives us any hope of survival or success. The Lord Jesus continues to speak of his Kingdom in parables so that we can awaken to the truth that has lain hidden from the foundation of the world. From the very beginning of creation, the LORD has planted in our humanity a hidden power to grow and prosper to become what we are, the very image of God. Indeed, we have his seed and his yeast hidden in our hearts and this power alone will enable our growth in holiness and truth.