Jesus develops his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the…”) and the sayings that follow it (“You have heard it said…, but I say to you…”) with parables. Jesus’ parables start with everyday things, and use very visual language. They add stark contrasts, odd or unexpected twists, or both, to get us to think about what the story is really saying. Jesus’ parables invite us to reach beyond the images to grasp the truths they contain.
The two short parables in Sunday’s Gospel both point to the same truth, but do it in different ways. The parable of the leaven (yeast) does it with an odd or unexpected twist (a twist that becomes clear when you realize that the woman is adding a tiny bit of yeast to enough flour to make 60 loaves of bread). The parable of the mustard seed does it with a stark contrast.
Jesus explains the meaning of the Gospel’s longer parable, the wheat and the tares (weeds). To help see the deeper meaning of the parable, as you listen to Jesus’ explanation, keep in mind the parable’s striking visual image – two things that start out very much alike, but that end up very differently.
As with all of Jesus’ parables, there is much to think about in these three stories, and much waiting to reward those who make the effort.
Readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072014.cfm