by Orlando Hernandez
In this Thursday’s Gospel (Mt 13: 10-17) our Lord is asked by His disciples why He speaks to the crowds in parables. I used to think that in this passage Jesus sounds almost disdainful as He talks of those who “look, but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” They do not seem to deserve the healing that in Isaiah’s prophesy God refuses to give them. I think of the harsh sermons that I remember hearing fearfully when I was a child and went to church. We are so undeserving.
However, our Lord is all goodness and mercy. He cannot have bad feelings toward anyone. This is a vital “knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven” that I feel He has granted me! I truly believe that He loved those “crowds” who mostly rejected what He taught. But, He could not help but point out that, for the most part, “Gross is the heart of this people” and they were unable to “understand within their hearts” that the Creator of the universe was giving them the very gift of Himself
My wife Berta always tells me that the Passion of our Lord was taking place within Him throughout all His ministry. Jesus must have felt great sorrow as He went about trying to reach the people. They seem to want the miracle and the spectacle, but the message of Salvation and eternal life was beyond them. The Sermon on the Mount was too much for them to understand or accept. Things have not changed. In our modern world what can we followers of Christ tell others that will open their eyes, their understanding, their hearts? Look at Jesus’ frustration in the Gospel. Can we do any better?
I used to think that in Thursday’s Gospel Jesus is saying that He talks to the unbelievers through parables in order to confuse, insult, and reject them. I can’t believe that anymore. In his book “Jesus, a Pilgrimage,” Fr. James Martin says that parables were ways to reach the people through the things they understood: farm life, fishing, home-building, the nature surrounding them, human relations. Jesus must have known that so much of His teaching was beyond their understanding. Perhaps the stories and similes were meant to catch their attention and stimulate their imaginations, like seeds planted hopefully in the soil of their hearts, whether rocky, compacted, weed-ridden, obstinate, or uninterested.
Were the chosen disciples so much better off than these crowds? Yes, Jesus gave them a good amount of healing and knowledge. For His own divine reasons He had also put into their hearts the supernatural gift of faith. But did they really comprehend the vast mystery of God’s Glory and Love? They certainly had a long painful road ahead in order to achieve enough joy and understanding of who Jesus really was in order to become truly committed to the demands of discipleship.
When I sit at Mass I feel like a member of both the undeserving crowd and the circle of disciples. When I hear the modern parables of the priests’ homilies, do I have ears to listen to what God is telling me? When I look around, do I have the eyes to see the presence of the living God in the people that surround me? When the broken, wounded Host is raised before me (“Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him…”) is my heart pure enough that I might truly see Him, the Eternal God?
Lord, You are such a mystery to me. Sometimes my link to You seems so tenuous. And yet Your gift of faith has been planted in my heart. I do not want to let You go. Please don’t let me go. But, most importantly, I beg You, have mercy on those unbelieving “crowds.” Touch their hearts, show them who You are!