The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2015, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net
Why did Jesus speak to people in parables? Like the rabbis of his time, Jesus used simple word-pictures, called parables, to help people understand who God is and what his kingdom or reign is like. Jesus used images and characters taken from everyday life to create a miniature play or drama to illustrate his message. This was Jesus’ most common way of teaching. His stories appealed to the young and old, poor and rich, and to the learned and unlearned as well. Over a third of the Gospels by Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain parables told by Jesus.
Cyril of Alexandria (150-215 AD ), an early church teacher, described the purpose of Jesus’ parables:
Parables are word pictures not of visible things, but rather of things of the mind and the spirit. That which cannot be seen with the eyes of the body, a parable will reveal to the eyes of the mind, informing the subtlety of the intellect by means of things perceivable by the senses, and as it were tangible. (COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 8.5.4)
Parable of the sower
What does the parable about seeds and roots say to us about the kingdom of God? Any farmer will attest to the importance of good soil for supplying nutrients for growth. And how does a plant get the necessary food and water it needs except by its roots? The scriptures frequently use the image of fruit-bearing plants or trees to convey the principle of spiritual life and death. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8; see also Psalm 1:3).
Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. There are different ways of accepting God’s word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to what he or she doesn’t want to hear. Then there is the shallow hearer. He or she fails to think things out or think them through; they lack depth. They may initially respond with an emotional reaction; but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else.
Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests or cares, but who lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important. Such a person is too busy to pray or too preoccupied to study and meditate on God’s word.
Then there is the one whose mind is open. Such a person is at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand. God gives grace to those who hunger for his word that they may understand his will and have the strength to live according to it. Do you hunger for God’s word?
Secrets of the kingdom
Why does Jesus say that the secrets of the kingdom of God will be revealed to some while others will not be able to recognize nor understand the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11-12)? Origen (185-254 AD), an early church Bible scholar, comments on why Jesus makes a distinction between those who are ready to hear and understand his message with those who are not ready to hear nor understand:
Sometimes it does not turn out to be an advantage for one to be healed quickly or superficially, especially if the disease by this means becomes even more shut up in the internal organs where it rages more fiercely. Therefore God, who perceives secret things and who knows all things before they come to be, in his great goodness delays the healing of such persons and defers the remedy to a later time. If I may speak paradoxically, God heals them by not healing them, lest a premature recovery of health should render them incurable. This pertains to those whom our Lord and Savior addressed as ‘those outside,’ whose hearts and reins he searches out. Jesus covered up the deeper mysteries of the faith in veiled speech to those who were not yet ready to receive his teaching in straightforward terms. The Lord wanted to prevent the unready from being too speedily converted and only cosmetically healed. If the forgiveness of their sins were too easily obtained, they would soon fall again into the same disorder of sin which they imagined could be cured without any difficulty. (ON FIRST PRINCIPLES 3.1.7)
The Lord Jesus will give us perceiving eyes and listening ears to understand the message of his kingdom if we approach him with faith and humility and the readiness to be taught. The proud cannot see nor hear the truth of God’s kingdom because they trust in their own opinion and perception of what is true or real. They have shut their minds to supernatural truth of God and his word. Do you approach God’s word with trust and humility or with doubtful pride and skepticism?
“Lord Jesus, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth. Open my eyes to your deeds, and my ears to the sound of your call, that I may understand your will for my life and live according to it”.
The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2015. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com
ARE YOU SLUGGISH OR CURIOUS?
“You do not understand this parable? How then are you going to understand other figures like it?” Mark 4:13
Jesus wants us to take ownership of our understanding of our faith. He wants us to ask questions as did the apostles (see Mk 4:10), to study, to probe deeply and persistently until we understand the meaning. Jesus tells parables so we might have the chance to ponder the Word, nourish it, and make it grow.
When asked why He only taught the crowds in parables, Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:10 (see Mk 4:12). Jesus knows that the hearts of people in the crowd, while interested in His teaching, are by nature “sluggish,” their ears “dull,” and their eyes closed (see Is 6:10). A parable resembles a riddle. It is designed to make its hearers think, ponder, and reflect until either the meaning of the parable is understood or the hearers dismiss it from their minds. Those who hear the parable will need to ask questions of those more advanced in their faith in order to better understand the meaning.
The hearers of the parable have a choice if they do not understand it. They can be like the rocky ground (Mk 4:16), dismiss the parable, and thus miss out on a chance to grow in faith. In so doing, their hearts become ever more sluggish to the Lord’s message, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 6:10. On the other hand, the hearers can be good soil which receives the Word, studies it, learns it, and bears a rich harvest (Mk 4:20).
Jesus is teaching you in parables. Will you sluggishly dismiss them, or will you seek and find their meaning?
Prayer: Jesus, make me docile to Your teaching and zealous to understand it, live by it, and spread it. Promise: “Their sins and their transgressions I will remember no more.” Heb 10:17 Praise: St. Thomas was blessed with a superior intelligence. He spent his entire life in the ministry of the Word of God. “How different the man who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High!” (Sir 39:1) (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from December 1, 2014 through January 31, 2015.
Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 30, 2014.
The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements