HOMILY WEEK 30 02 – Year I
Groaning with Transformative Hope
(Rm 8:18-25; Ps 126; Lk 13:18-21)
A woman, who had lost her wedding ring while gardening, found it decades later encircling a carrot that she pulled up. Apparently, the tiny carrot seed that she planted grew through the ring that fit snugly around the carrot and of course, came along with the carrot when pulled out of the ground, to the amazement and delight of the gardener.
That incident connects us with the mustard seed and yeast of the gospel as well as the first reading from Romans inviting us to groan along with all of creation with transformative hope for the fullness of God’s reign among us.
The readings teach us much about the Kingdom of God. It starts small, it is often invisible, it is a process that takes time to unfold, redemptive suffering is part of that process and all of creation is involved in a cosmic process of transformation that will be complete only when the kingdom of God comes in its fullness.
In the meantime, our own groaning, along with all of creation, is a sign of hope in a reality that is still incomplete. We are to be patient in our groaning, full of hope for it will come.
Like a child stretching its bag to gather more candy on Hallowe’en, St. Paul in the first reading to the Romans tries to capture in words the end result of this process the Greek Fathers called theosis, or divinization. Any suffering we face pales in comparison to our revelation as children of God and the freedom of the glory we will experience. We will be adopted sons and daughter of the God who created this amazing universe, and our whole person will be redeemed, forgiven, healed of all defects. That is our hope.
Richard Rohr, for one, stresses the cosmic nature of this process. In a recent reflection, he informs us that “In 1927, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, astronomer, and physics professor, first proposed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. He suggested that the expanding universe might be traced back to a single point of origin, a singularity.” He adds that we, along with all of creation, are inter-connected and moving toward a greater and greater union that will ultimately arrive at a cosmic oneness with God.
In the gospel, Jesus adds to this mystery, humility and invisibility. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed and yeast, he teaches us. A mustard seed is tiny, yet when planted in rich earth, is transformed into a large tree. For its part, yeast is both transformed as it becomes invisible, and transformative as it leavens the whole batch of dough.
The psalm response reminds us God has done great things for us. That great thing is precisely the transformation of ourselves, and all of creation, into the fullness of the reign of God Jesus came to inaugurate here on earth. This is our faith, and it affords us an infinite horizon of hope that can give meaning to all the disparate events of our lives, both positive and negative, the joy and the suffering.
Two other thoughts St. Paul shares with us are that God turns all things to the good for those who love him, and that we are always in a process of transformation, theosis, divinization. In 2 Cor 3:17-18, St. Paul describes this succinctly and enthusiastically: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
When the Lutheran Church commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a Lutheran community made a brief visit to Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton. They were welcomed by the new pastor, Fr. Susai Jesus OMI, who spoke of how the Lutheran Church very sensitively was not so much celebrating an event that divided us historically, but inviting the Catholic Church to commemorate it together. Jointly, we are remembering a painful event that now affords us an opportunity to work together towards greater and greater unity. As one Lutheran writer put it, the war is over, and he wonders why he is not Catholic again, because there really is nothing against which to protest. This whole movement towards unity, surely, is a mustard seed and batch of yeast that is part of the whole movement of theosis, divinization, transformation of everything in the cosmos into the image and likeness of Christ.
The Eucharist is very much part of that groaning for wholeness and complete union with God – a foretaste of the eternal banquet we will share together one day. At its core is transformation – first of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and then our own transformation into the Body of Christ.
May our celebration today strengthen our desire for Christian unity, and help us to see the ways we can be both mustard seed in the ground and yeast in the dough that builds up that reign of God among us.