In today's readings, Jeremiah tells of humankind’s betrayal of God’s goodness. The Responsorial stresses that with God “is the fountain of life.” Matthew contains an explanation of why Jesus speaks in parables. So, what are parables and what do they have to do with us, today?
We have all heard Jesus’ parables. According to the dictionary, parables are stories with a moral. Jesus told them with the hope that we would both understand the story and adopt the moral as a guide for our living. We have also all heard parables from our parents and other teachers in our lives. I know that our parents hoped that the parables would result in behaviors that were consistent with the moral of the stories they shared.
I remember one of the first parables that was told to me. I was five or six years old, and I was walking with my great-grandmother a few blocks from her house. We stopped in front of a house, and my great-grandmother said, “See this house. This is where Althea Hill lives. She never married. She stayed with her parents and took care of them until they died.” Even at that age, I could hear the clear message that one should sacrifice one’s own life for the sake of one’s parents.
Years later, I asked my grandmother (daughter-in-law of the previously mentioned great-grandmother) what it was like for her when my mother (her daughter) got married and moved away. My grandmother replied, “She left me.” The message of the Althea Hill story came back into my head, for in my grandmother’s mind, my mother had violated the message of sacrificing for one’s parents. In retrospect, I know that my mother was made to feel great guilt for marrying and moving away from her mother. In her later years, my mother came back in her widowhood and cared for her mother.
We all have heard parables as we have grown up, and I suspect that we have all told parables to our children, or to the children of others. What are the morals that our parables are intended to communicate? Are they about our faith and the value of faithfulness to God? Are they about selfless or selfish pursuits? Are they intended to keep our children close to us or to allow them to live their own lives? Are they stories that teach lessons from our own learning experiences, our wisdom?
You are a powerful communicator of parables to those around you. As we all tell our stories I hope that they encourage those around us to be faith-filled, hopeful, and free.
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