Daily Reflection
July 24th, 2003
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
Nursing School Chaplain
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Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20
Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Matthew 13:10-17

Many of us live today in a consumer culture where we are constantly called to accumulate material goods, to have more and more things that make our lives easier, to pursue a life of ease and comfort.  In such a culture it is difficult for us to hear the message of the gospel.  It is difficult because the gospel message is contrary to the message of the culture in which we live.  The gospel message calls us to hardship and sacrifice rather than to ease and comfort.  In today's gospel reading we have a particular example of the difficulties involved in following the message and teaching of Jesus.

We learn that the difficulty in hearing and following the gospel message is not new.  The crowds who listened to Jesus during his public life here on earth had the same difficulties.  They found it hard to open their minds and hearts to hear and understand the words of Jesus.  And when they did listen, they found difficult the things that Jesus asked of them.  We hear the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks to the crowds in parables.  It is a good question; one that they were curious to know the answer to.  Its the kind of question that I think I would have asked had I been there.  So much of what Jesus told the crowds was conveyed by parables that it seems reasonable to ask the Lord why he spoke in parables.  The answer of Jesus highlights the difference between the disciples and the rest of the crowd who followed Jesus. 

The disciples see Jesus as their master and they listen to his word.  As they spend more and more time with Jesus, they begin to understand who he really is, and why he is with them.  The people in the crowd, on the other hand, are following Jesus because of the miraculous things he has done and in the hope of themselves witnessing miracles.  They are more focused on what Jesus does than on who he is or on listening to what he says.  And so, Jesus works differently with them than with the disciples.  With the disciples Jesus is a professor, teaching and  instructing them about himself and his mission.  With the people in the crowds, Jesus is a story teller.  He leads them simply and slowly by means of stories and parables that demonstrate a certain truth.  The disciples are more advanced students, the people in the crowd are beginners.  Jesus proceeds in way that is appropriate to each group.

As I contemplate this gospel reading, I think that it is important to remember that Jesus came into the world for the salvation of all of the people he met.  That includes the disciples and the people in the crowds as well.  Jesus wanted all of them to be saved.  In the same way, Jesus wants all people who read this gospel today to be saved.  Whether we are students like the disciples or beginners like the people in the crowds, Jesus wants us to listen to him and hear him and follow him.   The message of Jesus is tailored to each of us and our abilities, but his message is for all of us.  We only have to listen.

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