The Gospel reading from the Mass for Monday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 13:31-35.

Christ continues His “Sermon of Parables” in Matthew 13 about the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven, Christ again uses familiar themes to help shed light on the mysterious Kingdom of God, demonstrating His understanding of nature (which He created), the common experiences of living in the Middle East and His personal mastery of Scripture.

Christ describes that the mustard seed (often referred to in rabbinical literature as the smallest seed) grows into the greatest of shrubs, becoming as large as a tree that birds can nest in it. The parable builds on Old Testament references to a coming kingdom that would be a great tree that gathers many nations (Ezek 31:2-13; Dan 4:17-18). The parable inspires hope among the disciples that Christ’s Kingdom will come despite starting small (Acts 1:15 numbers the disciples after Christ’s Ascension at only 120!). Like the mustard tree provides a home and savory seeds that feeds the birds, the Church will be home to multitudes (birds is an allusion to the Gentile nations), feeding them with most savory of food, the Eucharist. For the individual, the parable reveals that while most start with a small seed of faith, with time and persistence of prayer (see Luke 11:1-13) every soul can grow into the great tree of sainthood.

In The Parable of the Leaven, Christ confirms the spread of the Kingdom of God is far-reaching, depending on the transformational and mysterious impact of the Word of God. Christ’s Gospel, though it starts small and almost invisible (like hidden leaven), will have an disproportionally high impact in evangelizing the whole world (like small amounts of leaven can cause an enormous amount of meal to rise). Christ speaks in parables to convert the humble and hungry of heart, fulfilling the prophecy He inspired an Old Testament prophet to write (Psalm 78:2).

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ uses common themes (of trees, in this example) that were “planted” in the Old Testament. Divine Teacher, Christ reveals the Kingdom of Heaven with innovative parables that still draw men two millennia later.  Divine Prophet, Christ accurately describes the worldwide growth of the Church. Divine Leader, Jesus inspire His disciples with parables that instill lasting hope, overcoming uncertainty about the promise of the Kingdom.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) As confidently predicted by Christ, from the small band of only about 120 early disciples, the Church has over 1 billion members; there are another billion+ Christians who are not yet in full communion with Christ’s Church. What impresses you most about Christ’s bold and accurate prophesy?

2) Dwelling on the spreading cultural decay and the turmoil and apostasy in the Church can lead to despair. Reflect on Hope (CCC 1817-1821) and grow in joy as you pray for Christ to give you firm hope in His promise of the Kingdom of Heaven.

3) Developing the virtue of patience is difficult in a convenience culture where many things are available “on demand.” Reflect on Virtue and Patience (CCC  1803-1804, 736, 1825, 1832, 2613)  Pray for Christ to give you patience and persistence in the pursuit of sainthood and His Kingdom.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Souls in Purgatory

Virtue of the Day – Prudence

Corporal Work of Mercy – To give drink to the thirsty

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To instruct the ignorant