Saturday, July 19, 2014

It’s Story Time!

Reflections on the Readings

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
July 20, 2014 - Year A

It's Story Time!

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:

"I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
    I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world."

Jesus told stories. Mothers brought their children to hear Jesus tell stories. Can you imagine listening to Jesus tell stories to the children sitting at his feet? His stories, filled with messages, and sacred meaning, revealed things 'hidden from the foundation of the world." And everyone listening, mommy, daddy, and children went home filled with the wonder of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven dancing in their heads. 

Some stories begin with, "Once upon a time…" Jesus began his tales with, "The kingdom of heaven is like…" His comparisons were spun of the stuff of everyday life and experience like, wheat, seeds, leaven and dough. 

The Story of the Weeds and the Wheat

In this story Jesus describes how good and evil exist side by side and will do so until the end of human history. As in every good story so also in this story, the good guys win. But not without effort and perseverance. It is for us to overcome evil with good; not returning evil for evil but entreating and offering what is noble in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17)

Jesus gives us the secret power of the kingdom of heaven. He reveals to us what comes from depths of the Father's heart; things that are not of this world, therefore the world cannot know what it cannot know. Jesus said as much in praise to the Father: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants." (Matthew 11:25)

What things has he kept from the wise and the intelligent? I think it may be how the mystery of his power is not diminished in the presence of evil. For our Lord said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like a child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4) At the end of the age he will gather all his children together and bring them into his house and nothing will harm or destroy in all his holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

The Story of the Mustard Seed

Jesus tells this story to encourage us. We admire people who seem to have great faith. After all there are many in scripture to pick from like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, Mary. Certainly these all showed great faith in many ways and at different times in their life. 

But big time faith is not where it's at. And God is not asking us to use some else's faith. He wants us to use the faith we have. You might say, "I don't have a lot of faith." Look how Jesus compares great faith with the smallest of seeds, a mustard seed. As a young boy I received a birthday card that had a mustard seed encapsulated on it. It really is a small seed. My young heart imagined what great things I could do with just a little bit of faith. And Jesus wants us to use the faith we've got. For little is much when God is in it. 

The Story of Leaven and the Dough

This story is about sanctification; growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Speaking for myself, God is still working on me. He's working his will into my life little by little. I'm nearly 60 years old, but still I'm learning to say, "Not my will, but thine be done." 

Jesus said his food was to do the will of the Father. Our prayer must also be, "Your will, my Father, is my food." The Father works on us just like a baker mixes the leaven into the dough, kneading the dough, turning it over and over and working it with his hands. 

This process takes place in a hidden way. Like when we enter our prayer closets and seek him who dwells in the secret place, then he who sees in secret will reward openly. 

There really is something beautiful being in the presence of someone who is under the influence of the leaven of love. The quality, the grace, the gift of a life touched by the nail scarred hand is truly an inspiring witness of the things of the kingdom of heaven. But that is the witness we are called to be. That is the witness that is being called for to bring a new springtime of the faith into flower. And however we feel inadequate, weak, or powerless, we can pray in the Spirit as our second reading implores. For the Spirit will give us the words to pray that give expression to our deepest desire to know Christ and to make him known.

The world is waiting to hear a good story, a story of forgiveness, life more abundantly, and heaven our home. It truly is time to tell the Story of Christ and his Love. Go ahead and tell it! Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:

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