Jesus answered: ‘Will you lay down your life for me?’ - John 13:38

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Being Leaven

He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."
(Matthew 13:33)

Leaven comes from the word enliven, to give life, to vivify.

How are we supposed to be leaven as Christians?

Give life to the world around us.
· Bring Christ to those around us
But if we are convinced and have come to experience that without Christ life lacks something, that something real – indeed, the most real thing of all – is missing, we must also be convinced that we do no injustice to anyone if we present Christ to them and thus grant them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life. Indeed, we must do this. It is our duty to offer everyone this possibility of attaining eternal life.
- Pope Benedict XVI, Homily in Angola
· Be messengers of hope
As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.
- Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi
· Show love, concern – just a “How are you” can do volumes to make someone feel cared for.
· Speak the truth always

In today’s culture, so hostile to what is true and good, we can’t afford to be neutral on moral issues.
The poet Dante, in the Inferno depicts where cowards and neutrals spend their eternity: neither in heaven nor in hell, because neither place wants them.

Neither can we withdraw from world affairs and think that they will never concern us. As Christians we live our lives very much in the world:
“Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.” (Gaudium et Spes)

We must engage the world, the public sphere – we must form our consciences about what’s right and wrong because in this messed up world, we find that we’re forced to make serious moral choices very often; not just in action, but also through our words, our promotion of what is good.

This is not easy: leaven dies.

When the dough is the oven and the temperature crosses 140C, all life ceases. The yeast whose mission was to raise the dough, in order to complete its mission has to give up its life.

From alive to dead: but from dough to bread.

The death of the leaven results in the end product: bread – the staff of life, the very symbol of life and productivity.

Like leaven we must offer our lives in the service of our brother and sisters. Also, we must offer our life to Christ and be ready to suffer for him – die to ourselves for the truth.

A hero of mine is St Thomas More – he’s the patron saint for lawyers and politicians. I’ve come to realise why he’s such an amazing model for all of us after reading a chapter in Archbishop Chaput’s Render Unto Caesar.
Archbishop Chaput tells us that we realise there’s something missing in the way we live our public life. And he says Thomas More reminds us of what that is. More stands as a witness against cowardice.

He loved life and was a wonderful father and husband. He was a loyal friend. The great philosopher Erasmus said that nowhere could you find a more perfect example of true friendship than in Thomas More.

When we read of the early martyrs we see them on fire with a desire to die for their faith in Christ.
What draws men to the example of Thomas More is that he urgently wanted to live; but not at the cost of his soul. He persuades us not because he wanted to die for his beliefs like some other saints, but because he didn’t. He used all his skills to avoid martyrdom, but he refused to escape it when the price came down to the integrity of his faith.

More became a saint not by dramatic gestures or words. He did it by the simple daily habit of examining his actions in the light of his faith. He fed his conscience with prayer, he submitted himself to the routine of seeking and choosing what his Catholic formation knew to be right. He knew his personal sins and weaknesses and so knew he had a duty to rightly form his conscience by anchoring in truth outside his own will.

This same path to God is open to anyone who sincerely seeks it.
We should not delude ourselves into imagining that sainthood is exclusive. God creates all of us to be saints. The only thing that sets St Thomas More apart from the rest of us is that he persevered in his pursuit of God’s will without excuses or alibis.

Our society needs people who are willing to stand alone, without apologies, for the truth of the faith and the common human values it defends. One person can make a difference – if that individual has a faith he or she is willing to suffer for. Are we ready to say to the hostile forces of the culture of death, the words of Bishop John Fischer, More’s friend and fellow martyr, “I come to die for the faith of Christ and Christ’s Catholic Church”?

Are we enlivening the world around us? Is our environment better because we’re in it? Or would it be the same if we weren’t around? Are we messengers of love, hope and faith. Do we actively promote goodness?

Let us ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for us, that we may, like her, bring Christ’s light to the world.


Based partly on a talk by Peter Reinhart, “The Art of Baking Bread”:

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