Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Reading Exodus 19:1-2,9-11,16-20
Gospel Matthew 13:10-17

“‘…knowledge of the mysteries… has been granted to you, but to them it has not….’”

When the disciples in today’s Gospel passage ask Jesus why He speaks to “the crowd” in parables, He responds with what we might call a “theology of parables”. Jesus contrasts the disciples with the crowd. The disciples, He explains, have been granted “knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven”. But the crowd has not. Jesus also points out that the crowd “look but do not see” and “hear but do not listen or understand”. So given this two-fold deficit on the part of the crowd, why is it fitting for Jesus to speak to them in parables?

Since Jesus then reveals Isaiah 6:9-10 as having being fulfilled in the crowd’s midst, parables seem to be a sort of pabulum. By way of analogy, we might consider Saint Paul’s explanation of his own preaching to the Corinthians, who had been torn by jealousy and strife: “I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready...” [1 Corinthians 3:1-2].

In other words, parables are for the weak of spirit. They are for those not yet ready for the full strength of the Gospel message, nor for living this message through their own lives. Aren’t we ourselves among their number?