Yesterday, I tried a new recipe for wheat bread to be baked in my Dutch oven. What a marvelous piece of work, this Dutch oven. I followed the recipe to a tee, or so I thought, and placed the formed dough into the Dutch oven, and secured the heaved lid. And then comes the wait, the LONG wait, for the dough to rise. I actually allowed patience to take over my need to get things going.
When the time of waiting concluded, I lifted the lid gently, and peered down inside: that little round ball had not changed in size one iota!! Worse.... it was as hard as rock!!!! I took this firm piece of dough that looked and felt almost malignant and threw it in the garbage. What a thud it made as it hit the bottom of the garbage container.
What happened, you ask? After reading the recipe more carefully, I realized I only put in half the yeast!!! It was never going to rise. YEAST is an image Jesus uses several times in the gospel: “ Be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees.” Yeast is the rising agent within the dough, hidden, as it works its magic. It’s corrupting influence allows the rising to occur. But beware, the yeast may only be corruptive, like the yeast of the Pharisees: rigidity, judgement, condescension.
When the hidden “yeast” of God’s grace is allowed to do what it’s supposed to do within the human heart, the spirit “rises” forth out of the heart and into bodily expression: works of justice, peace and mercy become embodied. When this graced “yeast” does its divine magic, our hearts become soft, pliable, allowing transformation to occur.
But when we neglect the power of this yeast, our hearts become hardened, lifeless, unable to rise. Our spirits become malignant and we forget our purpose, allowing selfishness and ego to harden our willfulness.
Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that we must not be caught UNAWARES when God decides to surprise us with a visit. A heart filled with the yeast of joyful anticipation of this uncertain visit is a heart ready, like the ARC of Noah, a huge receptacle, welcoming unlimited “pairs” of God’s beautiful creation. Our hearts CAN be like that Arc, but only if that yeast is present.
God wants to “lift” the lid off the container of our body and see a human person “rising” to new heights.