Sometimes the little things in life do matter! A loincloth, a mustard seed, a particle of yeast…seemingly insignificant items that reveal a most significant message!
The Prophet Jeremiah is one of the Hebrew Bible’s greatest and possibly "strangest figures." Although born to an educated priestly family, Jeremiah’s career as a prophet was fraught with disappointment, despair, deportation to Egypt, and most possibly, at his life’s end, betrayal. Often called by God to perform ridiculous acts in public in order to capture the attention of King and court; his use of poetic language and imagery nonetheless captures God’s enduring love for Judah and continued faithful call to be in covenant relationship with Israel’s God.
In this passage, God tells Jeremiah to use his loincloth (yes, a traditional undergarment) as a sign of God’s current relationship with Judah gone bad. This was an illustration of King Johoiakim’s attempt to play politics with the area’s two superpowers Egypt and Babylonia. Ultimately that policy game would fail. The nation of Judah along with the King’s son and successor would be captured, dragged in chains and die in exile in Babylon. Jeremiah tries to warn the King that just as a loincloth is worn close to the body and protects it, so too does God’s Covenantal love protect God’s people, if it is adhered to. Discarding the loincloth, like discarding the Covenant, only results in failure and despair.
Today in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus uses the example of a mustard seed and a bit of yeast to tell his listeners what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. These seemingly small, insignificant items reveal a much larger truth beyond themselves! As part of Jesus’ Kingdom teaching, what is hidden will ultimately be revealed; what is cast aside will be redeemed; what is dead will be brought to new life.
We live in a world today which is addicted to grandiosity and sensationalism. "The bigger the better" we often think…However the small, everyday events of life go by without notice or attention. Yet Jesus makes it clear that God uses such small, ordinary, seemingly insignificant things to bring us into contact with the reign of God. Jesus reminds us, just as Jeremiah reminded King Johoiakim, that it is our faithfulness, our love of God and our commitment to one another in the Lord that allows God’s redemptive power to transform, insignificantly at first, our personal lives, our communities and our world.
Patrick Quinn is the Director of Planned Giving for the Holy Cross Province Development Office.