The Church and The Christian are “the Yeast”
“The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast …”
In February of this year, NPR relates this story originating from the Washington Post: The man who walked into Dave Cutlip’s tattoo parlor near Baltimore was hard to miss. His face bore a gang tattoo. The man sought Cutlip’s help in literally covering up his violent past. “I could see the hurt in his eyes,” Cutlip says.
Dave Cutlip couldn’t help the man — the tattoos were too close to his eyes. But it got him thinking. Many young people get tattoos that they come to regret —a few, like the one-time gang member, can mark them for the rest of their days. Inking over a tattoo can cost hundreds of dollars — and getting one removed by laser is even pricier. So Dave Cutlip and his wife Elizabeth decided they would donate their services to help individuals hide racist and gang-related tattoos. The Cutlip’s put out the word via Facebook: “Sometimes people make bad choices and sometimes people change. We believe there is already enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference.”
Cutlip explains that in prison and on the street, some people are forced into hate groups and gangs to avoid becoming victims themselves. But, in time, those tattoos memorializing that hatred and violence works against them.
Since January, Cutlip has done nine such jobs, each taking several hours. He removed a racist tattoo from a 25-year father of three who wants to move into management at the trucking company where he works. He says he got the tattoo at 18 — when “he was young and dumb”— because that’s what guys did where he grew up. Cutlip also removed a swastika tattoo from the lower back of a young mom and the words “white power” from the arms an ex-con who fell in with a gang while serving a year in prison for assault — now out, he’d like to work in construction or maybe study nursing, but the tattoo could be a major obstacle to those goals.
With three liked-minded tattoo studios in other parts of the country, the Cutlips have founded “Random Acts of Tattoo.”
“If we can erase just one hate tattoo at a time,” Dave Cutlip says, “then we’re on to something.
Today, we heard Jesus relate His Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven from St. Matthew’s Gospel! With regards specifically to the parable of the yeast, this comparison is taken from everyday experience: just as yeast gradually ferments all the dough, so the Church spreads to convert all nations.
The yeast is also a symbol of the individual Christian. Living in the middle of the world and retaining its Christian quality, a Christian wins souls for Christ by his word and example: Our calling to be children of God, in the midst of the world, requires us not only to seek our own personal holiness, but also to go out onto all the streets of the earth, and convert them into highways that will carry souls over all obstacles and lead them to the Lord. As we take part in all temporal activities as ordinary citizens, we are to become leaven acting on the population.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Dave Cutlip’s understanding and compassion are the “yeast” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel: the “yeast” that makes our lives and communities rise above the tragedies and devastation (often of our own making), transforming such sadness into joy, despair into hope, and death into life. With the “yeast” that is the Holy Spirit, may our efforts — whatever we have and can do for the good of others, be it our ability to listen patiently or removing ugly tattoos — let these be the means for transforming our little everyday worlds into the love and mercy of Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!