Understanding Parables

Matthew 13: 10-17
Exo 19:1-2,9-11,16-20b / Dn 3

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
(Matthew 13:11)

He who cares not for God’s kingdom,
Life’s meaning he never will see;
But those with faith gain more wisdom
And understand God’s mystery.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 10-17)

Reflection

Why indeed did Jesus deliver His messages in parables? Well, first of all, our Lord was a great storyteller, and He knew that His listeners would easily retain the lessons they learned if they heard them in stories that they could relate to. Like the Parable of the Sower was as interesting as it was instructive, and one could glean fruits of wisdom in its illustrations. The other practical reason why Jesus spoke in parables was to avoid a direct confrontation with His critics, the religious authorities, who were always ready to pounce on Him if He so much as made a derogatory remark about their Mosaic laws and rituals. That was why Jesus told His apostles, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” They were favored because they were like innocent children, trusting in Jesus’ words even if they were confused at first. But not the Jewish authorities and their followers, who were constantly skeptical about the works and words of Jesus.

To the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Mt.13:12). These words referred to the fertile soil – it had the capacity to produce, so it yielded an abundant harvest. The other soils that had no nutrients, were rocky, or overgrown with weeds lost even the few seeds that were sown on them. These types of soil refer to people who reject the teachings of Jesus because they have little or no knowledge of Scriptures, and/or are more preoccupied with the pursuits and pleasures of this world.

What our Lord is telling us in today’s Gospel is that there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who hear and live the Word of God in their lives, and those who never bother to listen, and so lose the opportunity to reform their lives and be saved. In our community, after we end a bible sharing, we decide on what action word we could apply relative to what we have learned in our Gospel sharing. Acting immediately on the Word of God is a sure way of retaining it in our hearts, never to be lost again. May we act on all the lessons that we learn daily from the Lord, as we read His Word in the Gospel.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the lessons You impart to us in the Bible. In it are hidden great and marvelous truths which so many have never grasped and which all mankind desperately need to know. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for helping us understand its secret treasures. Amen.

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