Parables

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
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.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
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.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
(Matthew 13:10-17)

Scripture Study

13:11 Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples’ understanding and the crowd’s obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with, although it is asserted in Mt 13:13. The mysteries: as in Lk 8:10; Mk 4:11 has “the mystery.” The word is used in Dn 2:18, 19, 27 and in the Qumran literature (1Qp Heb 7:8; 1QS 3:23; 1QM 3:9) to designate a divine plan or decree affecting the course of history that can be known only when revealed. Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven means recognition that the kingdom has become present in the ministry of Jesus.

13:12 In the New Testament use of this axiom of practical “wisdom” (see Mt 25:29; Mk 4:25; Lk 8:18; 19:26), the reference transcends the original level. God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it away (note the “theological passive,” more will be given, what he has will be taken away).

13:13 Because ‘they look … or understand’: Matthew softens his Marcan source, which states that Jesus speaks in parables so that the crowds may not understand (Mk 4:12), and makes such speaking a punishment given because they have not accepted his previous clear teaching. However, his citation of Is 6:9–10 in Mt 13:14 supports the harsher Marcan view.

13:16–17 Unlike the unbelieving crowds, the disciples have seen that which the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament longed to see without having their longing fulfilled.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks to the crowds in parables.

Jesus is explaining the Kingdom of God in these provocative and puzzling stories and images that seemed to be his preferred way of preaching. And he replies to his disciples, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.'” In other words, because the crowds refused to believe in him and what he has to say.

Many parables are strange and initially off-putting and puzzling. Of course, that is the point of parables: to bother us, throw us off base, confuse us a bit. How characteristic this was of Jesus’ preaching! He rarely lays things out in doctrinal form: he prefers to tell these puzzling, funny stories. Why? Because in many cases stories reveal truth that arguments can’t quite capture.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

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