Leaven for the Kingdom

As we finish up looking at our mission as baptized members of the Church, we must remember—baptism doesn’t only make us members of the Church. It incorporates us into Christ. We become part of His Mystical Body. So we are called to share in a measure of His office—priest, prophet and king.

So what does it mean to share in Christ’s kingship?

It means that we work to order our lives, our work, and our communities toward the Kingdom of God. As I quoted in the first post on the priesthood, our call as laity is to order the “temporal” world to the Gospel. We are called to be “leaven” in the world. We live active Christian lives as we accomplish the tasks of our daily vocations – whether we are lawyers or street sweepers or nurses or mothers or fathers.

In the parable of the leaven (Matthew 13:33), Jesus speaks of the profound impact we can have in the world – even as we live in the midst of it, hidden. While we don’t have precise knowledge of measurements from biblical times, most scholars agree that the three measures of wheat flour Jesus refers to would have made a large amount of bread. It was probably enough to feed over a hundred people!

Both this parable and the parable of the mustard seed that precedes it paint pictures of a kingdom that, at the present moment, is silent and hidden. We don’t see the yeast we mix in the dough. We don’t see the seed planted in the ground.

But they are also both about the huge impact that the kingdom will have. The mustard seed, the leaven, and the kingdom might not look like much now. But the mustard seed will grow to be a plant big enough for all the birds of the air. The leaven is going to transform the dough into enough to feed a huge crowd. The kingdom might not be what you’re expecting, but it’s going to stretch across the entire world—even to places yet undiscovered.

Some bakers might disagree with the interpretation of the hidden leaven working quietly in unseen ways. If you are a fan of using sourdough starter, your leaven isn’t so tiny! Scripture scholar William Barclay points out that some would point out the “working of the leaven is plain for all to see. Put the leaven in the dough, and the leaven changes the dough from a passive lump into a seething bubbling, heaving mass. Just so, the working of the kingdom is a violent and disturbing force plain for all to see.” 

In Acts 17:6, we see the early Christians referred to as “people who have been creating a disturbance all over the world.”

Perhaps both interpretations are true. Sometimes Christianity is quietly transformative and other times it is more disruptive. But just as Jesus’ own work was relatively small and quiet—beginning first in a completely hidden life in Nazareth and then growing to a small group of followers in the towns of Galilee—so too the kingdom today will often be overlooked or ignored because it is humble and spread slowly, person-to-person.

Our share in the kingship of Christ doesn’t necessarily entail loud leadership and places of prominence. Rather, it means working within our sphere of influence to order the world to him. Perhaps it means being a good example in the workplace. It means promoting Christian ethics in the public square and voting for candidates who will advance a just society. It also means serving the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us, “the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven” (Lumen Gentium 31).

We are called to establish the kingdom right where we are – in our homes, in our workplaces, in our social lives. Lumen Gentium continues, “They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.” (Lumen Gentium 31).

Most of us are not called to leave the culture, our families, or our jobs in order to work for the Lord. Rather, we are called to work for him right where we are, sanctifying those places and that work. “Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.”

We have been anointed and set apart for a mission. We have received the Holy Spirit, Who makes this mission possible. As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we must work to make His Kingdom present in the world. It is our responsibility to bring Christ into our offices, homes, neighborhoods, and out into the street.

He has given you a particular mission. God is sending you out to a specific place where He is needed. He is sending you to someone who needs what you can give. He is asking you to sacrifice, to preach, and to order the world to His Kingdom. How will you respond?

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

Print this entry