16 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 13:24-43 OR 13:24-30
July 19, 2020

The panic shopping that marked the early days of the pandemic cleared out the “baked goods” aisle. Once there was not so much as a hot dog bun left on the shelves, people started to hoard bags of flour and packages of yeast. In many homes, Grandma’s bread recipe was the family cookbook. The incredible smell of fresh baked bread was once again experienced in American homes. Even now that our food supply is somewhat normalized, yeast is still hard to find. Having tasted fresh baked bread, families are no longer satisfied with “store bought.”

As a consequence, the last of the three short parables set out in today’s Gospel might be a bit more approachable than usual, at least by those who have recently experienced the satisfaction of baking bread “from scratch.” Clearly, the process requires some effort, a bit of skill, as well as a good deal of patience. But the rewards shared with and enjoyed by the entire family continue until the last slice is eaten.

Although the three little stories don’t reveal what heaven is actually like, through them, Jesus offers instructions on how to get there. So, home bakers have somewhat of an advantage as they reflect on “the process” of calling tiny granules of yeast back to life, and then mixing them with flour until the whole batch is leavened. The transformation of a few ordinary ingredients is a “wonder to behold.” Every successful loaf deserves the name “Wonder Bread.”

These challenging times have offered an opportunity to recover many memories and to relearn many forgotten skills…bread baking being only one of them…the most important being CONVERSION!

Much like baking bread, CONVERSION is a process that requires effort as well as patience, but really, not all that much skill. Our First Reading describes the limitless power, unconditional love, and unfailing mercy of our God. All of these “Divine ingredients” are packaged…in GRACE.

GRACE is never in short supply and is freely given. When we make the slightest effort to mix grace into the years of our lives, the process of CONVERSION begins. Once the “Divine ingredients” leavens our lives, The Holy Spirit comes to our assistance to provide what might very well be lacking in our skill set. In our Second Reading, St. Paul makes it quite clear that The Spirit stands by, eager to perfect the process, delivering a perfect CONVERSION…truly a “wonder to behold.”

Still, as every good home baker knows, it’s not so simple as mixing and forgetting. There are things to be done to ensure that nothing interferes with the process. The same holds true with CONVERSION. We can’t simply rely on the Holy Spirit to do all the work. We have to be vigilant that nothing interferes with the process that has begun when we introduce the “Divine ingredients”…GRACE…into our lives.

There is no denying the fact that we live in very challenging times…actually very frightening times. Our Readings work together to bolster our hope that we will survive. They also offer helpful advice on how we can not only survive, but grow and flourish. These times call us to recover the memories of all the ways in which our good, loving, and forgiving God is active in our lives. The challenges we face inspire us to re-learn a process that many have forgotten…CONVERSION.

Finally, our Scripture passages invite us to dispel the feelings of tension and stress that have become way too pervasive with the aroma of holiness that fills the hearts of those who have mixed GRACE into their lives.

And know this: Once you have experienced life in Christ…nothing else will measure up…nothing else will satisfy you.