THE SEASON OF PARABLES
Brothers and Sisters,
Nearly all of September and into October of this year, the Church selected parables for the Gospel at the weekend Mass. These can be the more famous words that Christ spoke because these stories He made up are indeed gripping stories no matter our perspective: the sower, the prodigal son, the five wise women, the pearl of great price, the workers in the master’s vineyard, the cruel steward – to name only a few.
These are stories that Christ made up to communicate a moral lesson for those who were learning from Him and even for those who opposed Him. Christ used these fables of His to softly try to turn people towards living as a model of God the Father’s relationship with humanity. I suppose that’s a fancy way of saying: God is invariably kind to humanity even though humanity can be cruel to God as well as to one another.
The problem is always on the human side of the equation. As a result of the communication of the parables (and other words of Christ) is that people often walk away, people get angry, people even refuse to acknowledge the goodness of what Christ has said. I remember growing up and speaking to an English teacher about the Gospel stories. She told me that she, as a reader, was not surprised at all when Christ was killed near the end of the Gospels because of this.
Here’s an example from outside of the parables. When the anonymous crowd threw the woman caught in adultery in front of Christ, He simply said “let the one without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). While this did save the life of the woman in this terrifying situation, notice how there was no apology made from the crowd to the woman, no amends attempted or contrition offered by the mob. They just leave rather than try to bring about a better situation.
Even beyond the parables, it is heartbreaking to read the Gospels and find that the people like the rich young man “went away sad” (Mark 10:22) and others even became angry at Christ because He told them that they need to change. It is always easy to point fingers at the people in the Gospels and claim that we would have been better had we ourselves been present when Christ first spoke the parables, but that too is missing the point. Part of the reason that the Gospel authors wrote the reactions of the people in the crowds is so that we will question our reaction. The crowd’s reaction, though not part of the parable-story, is part of the Gospel story. As we hear these parables through the Autumn weeks, let’s be sure that indeed we learn not only from them, but from the reaction of the crowds as well.
God be near,