RCL Year A Proper 12 Alternate Readings
I Kings 3:5-12, Psalm 119:129-136, Romans 8:26-39, Saint Matthew 13:31-33 and 44-52

By this point in Jesus’ ministry, the crowds following him are huge. We are told at the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of Saint Matthew that Jesus climbs into a boat and teaches the crowds on the beach.[1]

He teaches the crowds with parables—he gives them parable after parable. Each parable discloses something about the Kingdom. No parable completely discloses the Kingdom; no parable is the final and full description of the Kingdom. It is as though Jesus has dozens of possible parables to draw from. Today’s Gospel ends with the image of a householder selecting from among the new and the old in his cupboard, in his storeroom, to feed, to nourish, the throngs of people. All the parables are true; some of them may catch hold and grow in the people.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed; it is like yeast; it is like treasure; it is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; it is like a net thrown into the sea. How do we understand all of these images? On the day that Jesus taught them, some stuck and took root, and some did not. Today, in this service, as the Gospel was proclaimed, some stuck and took root, and some did not. What is the difference between a parable that roots and one that does not root? What roots in us depends upon who we are.

Jesus, in the sentence immediately following the Gospel today, goes away to teach somewhere else. He seems to be content with the results of his scattering parables like seed among the crowds following him. Something of what he has taught will stick and take root. Something will stick and take root with you.

In a review of a book about Saint Paul and the early church,[2] I read this. “An atheist believes that God does not exist. A believer knows that God exists. One has an opinion, the other knowledge.”[3]

Something of these parables, or something of the Bible, or something of the liturgy, will stick and take root in what you know. And whenever that happens, the Kingdom has rooted in you. The Kingdom is that way. It grows wherever it sticks and takes root. Like the seeds that fell on good soil and like the mustard seed, the Kingdom will grow in you. It will grow and become as valuable to you as a pearl of great price. “Let anyone with ears listen!”[4]

[1] Saint Matthew 13:1-2.

[2] Emmanuel Carrère’s The Kingdom.

[3] The New Yorker, 10 and 17 July 2017, page 83.

[4] Saint Matthew 13:9.