In our Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus answers the disciples’ question: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” His reply, quoting Isaiah, seems rathe harsh: “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.”
What’s challenging about this is that besides the Gospel reading for tomorrow, in which Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower, there are few instances where the parables are explained. So, we, too, are spoken to in parables. Does this mean that we have been judged as hard-hearted, obstinately blind and deaf to what is going on?
I think it’s important to remember that not only do we have the parables, we also have other words that Jesus spoke, and perhaps even more importantly, we have the things that Jesus did. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and all the ways that God blesses us and speaks to us today.
And perhaps it can be said that even though we can be at times exasperatingly dense when it comes to understanding the Gospel message, especially with regards to forgiveness and mercy, God doesn’t completely shut the door on us. The parables may be God’s way of leaving the door open for us. If we are willing to open our eyes and our ears, and learn from the parables, we can continue to grow in understanding: “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich…”
May we not be like the people of whom Jeremiah speaks in our first reading, who turned their backs on God. May we not persist in closing our eyes and ears, as we heard in Jesus’ quote from Isaiah. Instead, may we let God into our hearts and be healed.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.