Leaven for the Kingdom


“As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we must work to make His Kingdom present in the world.”


As we finish up looking at our mission as baptized members of the Church, we must remember—baptism doesn’t just make us members of the Church. It incorporates us into Christ. We become part of His Mystical Body, and so we are called to share in a measure of His office—priest, prophet and king.

So what does it mean to share in Christ’s kingship?

It means that we work to order our lives, our work, and our communities toward the Kingdom of God. As I quoted in the first post on the priesthood, our call as laity is to order the “temporal” world to the Gospel. We are called to be “leaven” in the world, living active Christian lives as we accomplish the tasks of our daily vocations—whether we are lawyers or bankers or street sweepers or nurses or mothers or fathers.

In the parable of the leaven (see Matthew 13:33), Jesus speaks of the profound impact we can have in the world—even as we live in the midst of it, hidden. While we don’t have precise knowledge of measurements from biblical times, most scholars agree that the three measures of wheat flour Jesus refers to would have made a large amount of bread—probably enough to feed over a hundred people!

Both the parable that precedes it, the mustard seed, and the parable of the leaven paint pictures of a kingdom that, at the present moment, is silent and hidden. We don’t see the yeast we mix in the dough. We don’t see the seed planted in the ground.

But they are also both about the huge impact that the kingdom will have. The mustard seed, the leaven, and the kingdom might not look like much now. But the mustard seed will grow to be a plant big enough for all the birds of the air. The leaven is going to transform the dough into enough to feed a huge crowd. The kingdom might not be what you’re expecting, but it’s going to stretch across the entire world—even to places yet undiscovered.

Some bakers might disagree with the interpretation of the hidden leaven working quietly in unseen ways. Scripture scholar William Barclay points out that some would point out the “working of the leaven is plain for all to see. Put the leaven in the dough, and the leaven changes the dough from a passive lump into a seething bubbling, heaving mass. Just so, the working of the kingdom is a violent and disturbing force plain for all to see.”  In Acts 17:6, we see the early Christians referred to as “people who have been creating a disturbance all over the world.”

Perhaps both interpretations are true. Sometimes Christianity is quietly transformative and other times it is more disruptive. But just as Jesus’ own work was relatively small and quiet—beginning first in a completely hidden life in Nazareth and then growing to a small group of followers in the towns of Galilee—so too the kingdom today will often be overlooked or ignored because it is humble and spread slowly, person-to-person.

Our share in the kingship of Christ doesn’t necessarily entail loud leadership and places of prominence. Rather, it means working within our sphere of influence to order the world to him. It means being a good example in the workplace. It means promoting Christian ethics in the public square and voting for candidates who will advance a just society. It means serving the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us, “the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer” (Lumen Gentium 31).

We have been anointed and set apart for a mission. We have received the Holy Spirit, Who makes this mission possible. As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we must work to make His Kingdom present in the world. It is our responsibility to bring Christ into our offices, homes, neighborhoods, and out into the street.

He has given you a particular mission. He is sending you out to a specific place where He is needed. He is sending you to someone who needs you. He is asking you to sacrifice, to preach, and to order the world to His Kingdom. How will you respond?


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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