A questioning mind or a listening heart? Thursday, 16th week in ordinary time. Matthew 13: 10-17
Matthew chapter 13 is also called the parable discourse. It is the third of five discourses found in the Gospel. In it, are found seven parables attempting to explain what the kingdom of God is like. Remember that Jesus does not limit the notion of the kingdom of God to a specific idea, but He always compares it. Yet, the kingdom is always greater than what it has been compared to.
A parable is really a ‘throwing alongside’. It is a comparison of two entities so that one may throw light on the other. There was a reason why Jesus spoke in parables. Parables embodied simple elements of everyday life; it avoided the jargon of the learned and it got the message across simply. For Jesus it was the best means of communication, especially since His intended hearers were the simple folk.
There was a reason why Jesus took His message to the masses. Chapters eleven and twelve which precede this chapter, clearly tell us of the heightened tension between Jesus and the Jewish leadership. No matter what He did, they simply found fault with Him. Their learning came in the way of the unfolding reality, that Jesus had come as the Messiah.
It is for this reason, that chapter 11:25 has Jesus exclaiming a thanksgiving, ‘for the mysteries are hidden from the learned and revealed to mere children’. Our Gospel of today is a take-off from the issue at hand. There was nothing wrong with the sower or the seed; the problem was always the soil, and the soil of the Jewish leadership was anything but receptive. It was hardened, shallow and thorn infested!
Perhaps the disciples wanted Jesus to speak in lofty words like the Rabbis, which necessitated their question, ‘why do you speak to them in parables?’ There is a clear reference to the ‘them’ verses in the Gospel of Matthew. So who were these ‘them’?
By the time Matthew penned the Gospel, his community had clearly been barred from having anything to do with the Jews. The followers of Jesus were persona non grata. In his Gospel, Matthew was drawing the line of exclusion, that historically had already come to exist. There was the ‘them,’ who by their own rejection of Jesus and His disciples, had shut the doors to the secrets of the kingdom.
The question we could perhaps ask ourselves today is, are we the ‘them’? Our intellect per se does not disqualify us from being in God’s good standing. The problem arises when our learning becomes a barrier to the simple mysteries of God’s revelation. A questioning mind is good but a listening heart is better.
Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew is not going to be easy reading for the disciple. The kingdom is not a cakewalk. There is opposition coming in the form of the enemy who will plant weeds among the good seed. But there is also hope of growth and expansion (the parable of the mustard seed and leaven). Then there are the subjects of the kingdom who will sell everything they possess to acquire the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. Finally, there is judgment for the subjects in the kingdom. The kingdom is full of surprises!
Fr Warner D’Souza
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