The prophet Jeremiah offers us a powerful message about how close God is to us. He wants us to cling to him like clothing – not just any clothing, but like an undergarment. Even though we may be as close to him as clothing, we have to be aware of when we become too soiled to be worn. It is completely normal for clothes to be washed and worn again when they are clean – as long as clothes are dirty they are not fit to be worn. If an item of clothing goes too long without being washed, it may indeed rot – then it can no longer be cleaned and it is “good for nothing.” What is the water in which we must be cleansed as the garment of the Lord? This water is certainly grace, and it is the Word of God. To wash in the Word is to listen to the Word and obey it. Jesus tells Peter, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” and “You are clean because of the Word I spoke to you.”(cf. Jn 13-15) We cannot be clean without listening and following God’s Word daily – even if we try to do well on our own, we will always end up getting soiled.
This closeness with God brings us great honor, but, more importantly, it transforms us. The building up of God’s kingdom has to do with His transforming proximity. We have an image of that transformation in today’s Gospel with the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast. If, in clinging to God, we wish His kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven, we must plant his Word in our minds and hearts. It may seem an insignificant thing to do – we listen all day long to people talking, to news, to information, etc. But God’s Word is a powerful seed: if it is planted in our minds and hearts and cared for it will become the mightiest of trees providing shelter and peace for the friends of God who cling to its branches. Yeast is buried in flour and even though we can’t see what it is doing immediately, with time it causes a loaf to grow and mature into something nourishing and delicious. So it is with the Word of God kneaded through obedience with our mind and heart into our actions.
We are the robe of Christ. When we have clothed him with our confession of faith, we, in turn, have put on Christ. It is the apostle who says that Christ is our robe, for when we are baptized, we put on Christ. We both clothe and are clothed. Would you like to know in what manner we clothe the Lord? We read in Jeremiah: “Go buy yourself a linen loincloth. Wear it on your loins, and go to the Euphrates. There hide it in a cleft of the rock. Obedient to the Lord’s command, I went to the Euphrates and buried the loincloth. After a long interval, again I went to the Euphrates, and the loincloth was rotted, good for nothing. Then the message came to me from the Lord: ‘Listen very carefully. As close as the loincloth clings to your loins, so had I made this people cling to me,’ says the Lord.” Why have I drawn this out to such length? To prove to you that the faithful are the garment of Christ.1
Now, in place of the herb, the preaching of the prophets was given to ailing Israel. But the birds of the air dwell in the branches of the tree that rises high above the ground. We see the apostles as branches stretched out by the power of Christ and overshadowing the world. The people of all nations fly there in the hope of life and, disquieted by the whirling winds—that is, by the breath and blowing force of the devil—they come to rest upon those tree branches.2
For as leaven converts the large quantity of meal into its own quality, even so shall you convert the whole world.
Note the wisdom by which Christ introduces natural things. He implies that as the leaven works, so does the flour. Do not say to me, “What shall we be able to do, twelve men, throwing ourselves upon so vast a multitude?” Rather, the most conspicuous thing about the apostles is that they were not put to flight when they mixed with the multitude. The leaven then leavens the lump when it comes close to the meal, and not simply close but so as to be actually mixed with it. He said it was not simply put in the flour but hid in it. So you also, when you come close to your enemies and are made one with them, then shall you get the better of them.
The leaven, though it is buried, is not destroyed. Little by little it transmutes the whole lump into its own condition. This happens with the gospel. Do not fear, then, that there will be many dangerous circumstances. For even then you will shine forth and be victorious. By “three measures” here he meant many, for he is prone to taking this number for a multitude.3
As to what is said about the person of the Lord: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world,” we must pay close attention to the description of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt and the narration of all the signs contained in the book of Exodus. From this we realize that all those things that were written are to be understood through parables. And not only those great writings but also the signs that have been hidden will not ring clear unless we view them as parables. For the Savior promises that he will speak in parables and utter what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.4
- HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 45 (Ps. 132). Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (pp. 106–107). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON MATTHEW 13.4. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 281). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 46.2. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 282). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 2.13.35. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 283). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.