Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b
In today’s Gospel reading, the apostles ask Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus replies, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.” And then Jesus quotes Isaiah about the unwillingness of the people to see, hear, and understand.
If we have been given “knowledge of the mysteries of heaven,” then why did the evangelists pass down the parables of Jesus? Is it because we are hard of heart and unwilling to be converted? Sometimes I think that’s true. We can often be unwilling to surrender to God’s will for us, stubbornly hanging onto the belief that somehow our plans and our wills are the ones to be followed.
But for me, the parables of Jesus are not meant to be obstacles for us to believe, but invitations to enter more deeply into the “mysteries of heaven.” Many people have remarked throughout history that the meanings of the parables can never be fully exhausted. Depending on what is going on in our lives and in our world, we can always learn something from them, even from the ones which seem to convey a single concept.
The parables of Jesus challenge us to let go of any preconceptions we have of how God operates, or any limitations we may be tempted to put on God’s love for us and for the world. Just as we are reminded by our first reading from Exodus, God’s ways are above our ways. But at the same time God chooses to reveal Himself to us, and continues to love us beyond any human understanding.
So, when 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,” He is promising us that the more we are willing to enter into the mystery of His love for us, the more understanding we will have, and we will “grow rich” in love and grace to be shared with others.
May we not be hard of heart, but willing to learn from the parables of Jesus.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.