Opening the Word: Seeing with the parables


Today, Our Lord explains why he uses parables in his teaching. The use of parables is not exclusively a way of gaining the attention of easily distracted disciples. Rather, parables are meant to form us to see beyond the visible to the invisible.

At a literal level, Jesus is talking about a sower. We know the parable. The sower goes out, throwing seed with abandon. Some of the seed fell in the path of birds, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some on rich soil. Birds ate the seed, the rocky ground refused the growing of roots, the thorns choked it, and at last, the seed grew 100- or 60- or 30-fold.

Jesus then does something strange. He explains the parable directly to the disciples. The seed on the path is the one who hears the word of God without understanding, on rocky ground is the one who rejoices initially but then abandons the kingdom, among thorns is the one who is so attached to the world that she cannot follow Christ, and on rich soil is the one who hears, understands and bears fruit.

If Jesus explains the parable so clearly, why do we need to keep hearing it?

Understanding the hidden nature of the parable is only the first stage in listening fruitfully to the word of God. The task ahead of each of us is a closer examination of ourselves. What kind of disciple are we?

Jesus teaches in parables because he wants us to look beyond the visible to that which is not visible. Sure, we are readers of scriptural columns in a Catholic newspaper. Therefore, we must be the fruitful disciples.

But not so fast, says Our Lord. Are we not capable of misunderstanding the word of God? Do we not confuse consolation in prayer for fidelity to Our Lord? Are we not also anxious, afraid to give up everything, to follow Christ unto the ends of the earth?

The task of the parable, for Jesus, is not just understanding the correspondence between image and reality. No, parables are about conversion: “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes …” (Mt 13:15).

Do we want to be the kind of people who see beyond the visible to the invisible? Do we want to hear, understand, and bear fruit, or are we satisfied with what is on the surface?

St. Paul in Romans invites us to see creation in this parabolic way. There is a glory that awaits the created order. God will be all-in-all.

But right now, creation is groaning. It is awaiting the fullness of redemption. We are awaiting the fullness of redemption.

The groaning of creation is an invitation to deeper conversion, to a commitment to the Gospel.

Over the last months, we have seen this groaning, dear brothers and sisters.

Men and women dying in hospitals, racism, violence on city streets, a politics defined by demonization.

Creation is groaning, and it is hard to believe that this world, this history, this age may be transformed through the word of God.

But look harder, pierce beyond the visible to the invisible. See the glory that God intends even now for all those who bear fruit in Christ.

Let us go out like the sower, preparing this world for a rich harvest of faith, hope and love. Let us look inward, at ourselves, and clear away the dusty soil of infidelity and water the ground with the obedience of love.

Let us learn to see the world as a parable of divine mercy.

July 12, 2020 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 55:10-11
Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Rom 8:18-23
Mt 13:1-23

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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