In the early 1970s Leonard Bernstein composed a dramatic oratorio, Mass, for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The work begins with the main figure, the Celebrant, preparing for the liturgy with a prayer that cries out for something unexpected: simplicity.

“Sing God a simple song . . . God loves all simple things. For God is the simplest of all.”

I’ve always loved that idea. It challenges us, like this portion of Matthew’s Gospel, and it tells us that perhaps God’s kingdom isn’t what we think. Something great can be so small, so elusive, so simple. It may be the simplest thing of all.

We tend to complicate our notions of God. But the readings these last few Sundays suggest otherwise. Could God, in his majesty and greatness, be found in something as humble as a shell, as primitive as a seed, or as ordinary as the earth? Is God something to be caught, like a fish in a net? Maybe. God could be closer than we realize.

Again and again, the Gospel calls us back to the basics. A seed of love. The yeast of compassion. A pearl of humility and hope.

Maybe, Jesus says, we misunderstand what makes God grand—and what makes God’s work so wondrous. It’s just that simple. Just that small. And just that overwhelming.

“God loves all simple things. For God is the simplest of all.”

— Originally published in the July 2020 edition of Give Us This Day.