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“Leaven is the essential element in both bread and wine, which are central symbols of our Christian lives. It is as leavening agents that humans grow far beyond ourselves. Isn’t it incredible that something so small can be so transformative?”

Leavening agents: baking powder, baking soda, and yeast play a vital role in baking. Without them we would eat dense and flat baked goods rather than items with volume and texture.

Dominican Sisters are like leaven. We strive to be agents of transformation.

The Leavening Agent

Jesus presents a parable to us asking the hearers to take the perspective of the woman mixing dough. According to scripture scholar and Dominican Sister, Barbara Reid, OP, in her book, Parables for Preachers: The Gospel of Luke, Year C, the most common interpretation of this parable focuses on the small amount of yeast that is used to produce a loaf of bread. The woman uses something so small to permeate three measures of bread, approximately 50 pounds.

Barbara Reid OP
Sr. Barbara Reid is a scripture scholar and author. She serves as Vice President and Academic Dean at Catholic Theological Union.

According to Sister Barbara, the leaven is thought to be Jesus’ preaching, which grows throughout time and history. The theme of leaven appears in scripture in both the Old and New Testaments representing evil influence or corruption. To present yeast in a positive way and turn the negative meanings into a positive element is significant. This particular parable of the woman mixing yeast into dough presents God’s reign as a locus of the sacred, yet incorporates persons who would be considered corrupt or unclean. It invites those who are on the fringes of society to see themselves as “leaven” or a vital component of membership in the community. For those already members, they are invited to change their attitudes and invite outcasts to provide the active ingredient for growth of the community.

The parable also offers us an image of God as a baker woman, mixing yeast into dough and offering the critical ingredient for vitality and transformation. The addition of this leavening agent causes the entire loaf to rise into its fulfillment in order to feed the entire community. Hence, this parable portrays the work of women as a vehicle of God’s revelation.

The Call to be Leaven

Grand Rapids Dominican Sister, Marie Celeste Miller, OP, baker and purveyor of The Peace of Cake, said, “Leaven is essential to all good cakes. It makes them rise and provides the space for the batter to breathe and remain moist.”

As Preachers of the Word of God, we Dominicans, and all followers of Christ, are invited to be leaven in the world. We continue the preaching of Jesus to our world for our generation, allowing space for the breath of life.

Sisters are invited to include those who may feel left out or those who are excluded to be vital members within our community. We agitate the status quo and shine light on the injustices in our cities, nation, and world. We educate ourselves and others and we speak to those in power and share our concerns regarding issues such as immigration, human trafficking, and care of Earth.

As an essential ingredient of God’s work today we look to the root causes of injustice, collaborating with individuals and other organizations working to raise awareness and provide support when and where we are called.

We accompany people who have experienced oppression, speaking out on critical issues. Through this we have realized that our small efforts have a bigger impact when joined with others who are concerned with the same issues. We support them through sharing of resources, space for mediation, speaking out on their behalf, finding ways to assist with personal needs, listening to their stories, and above all, praying for them and with them. There are countless ways Sisters serve as leaven in our communities and the world at large.