It is possible that what happens in the first reading gets lost in the language. God tells Jeremiah to not wash his underwear for awhile, then bury it, then show it to people. Why did God make Jeremiah go through all that today? Could he not have just stood up in Jerusalem and said, “What you are doing is wrong.”? He could have, and he did many times, but the situation called for something a little more memorable. It is easy to forget about the odd street preacher who complains about our sinful ways, but if a man shows you his filthy, rotten underwear and says, “You are like this underwear”, you are not going to forget it.
In the Gospel today, we have two parables about parables. The little mustard seed becomes a bush, and the little yeast leavens all the dough. Jesus could have just given his teaching straight; he could have written a catechism with everything carefully explained, but instead he gave us parables.
Parables are more powerful than their explanations. This is a little ironic since it is now my job to explain these parables, but I know that you might forget my homily by the time you finish lunch. Certainly a week from now you would not be able to quote it all back to me. But the parables stick with you. The mustard seed that grows into a bush, the yeast that leavens the whole dough are not as easily forgotten as a theological explanation can be. These little ideas start as simple analogies, but they can grow in our souls and change us. They are like mustard seeds or a little yeast, and what these tiny things can accomplish in us is simply amazing.
The greatest parable is the paschal mystery. A simple story about a man who died for us though he was innocent, then rose from the dead because he was God and could not be conquered by death is as simple a story as any parable. This story and all the parables that Jesus told have such power if we will water the seed or knead the dough, if we will meditate on the mystery and turn it over and over in our minds. Given time we will be amazed at how much these simple stories have done in our souls. Sometimes a little unforgettable idea is far more powerful than a 5 volume book.