Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b
In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus, "Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?" In response, Jesus says, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted…This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen and understand."
All this begs a question. If the disciples were given knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, why were Jesus’ parables handed down through the centuries to disciples like us? Could it be that there are times when we look but do not see, or hear, but do not listen?
A case in point is another verse in our Gospel passage. Jesus says, "To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away." That sounds a lot like "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." There is a temptation, I think, to read Jesus’ words and take them one of two ways. One is to somehow see Jesus approving of the rich getting richer. Another way is to see Jesus resigned to the harsh reality of how the world works. But Jesus is not talking about material wealth here. He is talking about the desire to know and understand more deeply the "mysteries of the kingdom." Those who seek more will be given more.
And so I don’t agree with those interpreters of the Gospel who see material wealth as the sign of God’s blessing. As the hymn says, "The Lord hears the cries of the poor." I also don’t believe Christians are to be resigned to the injustices and sins that lead people to stay in poverty. The status quo is not the kingdom of God.
As long as there is the temptation to close our eyes and our ears to the challenges of the Gospel, we will need to hear the parables Jesus tells us. But we need not despair. God’s love and grace has been granted to us in Jesus, and in Him, we can grow in knowledge and wisdom, and be better able to share the Good News.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of Holy Family Parish, Fairfield, Alabama.