“Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: such as we are, such are the times.” ― St. Augustine of Hippo
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” Matthew 13,33
In the Bible, yeast is usually a symbol of evil and corruption. For instance, Jesus warned His disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees (Mk 8,15). Similarly, at the Passover, the Jews eat unleavened bread, that is, bread free from leaven or yeast. In Matthew 13, however, yeast is presented as a symbol of growth.
Over the past few months, there has been a re-birth of “bread-making” at home. Both veterans and newcomers to home bread-making know that a tiny amount of yeast put into a large batch of dough produces striking results. (By the way, the three measures of flour mentioned in the Gospel passage above would produce enough to feed 100 people!) A dough batch, no matter how big and after only a matter of hours, can swell to twice its original size as the process of fermentation takes place. The effects of the yeast, quite invisible to the eye, reach to every corner. When St. Augustine encourages us to “live well,” he is saying “take an active part in influencing the world and ‘the times’ around you.”
For some historical perspective, remember that the early Church made very little impact on its surrounding societies, even for several generations. But, over the years, its influence has grown until Christianity has become the prevailing faith and cultural influence of the world, as it has spread to every part of the globe. If we take seriously the saying “don’t just go to church, be the Church,” it is important to remember that we can remain a very small part of the entire world, but our influence can be enormous. Our efforts, inspired and sustained by God, to spread truth, love, and justice, can continue to slowly penetrate every corner of society, including our own neighborhood and city. Despite all of the limitations we are facing these days because of the coronavirus, let us be sure to shape the times in which we are living. “Such as we are, such are the times.”