It was just eleven days ago, on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, that we had this same gospel. The long form on that day contained the parable of the sower and an explanation of the parable (which are the gospel readings from yesterday and tomorrow.)
But between these gospel parts is today’s interjection by Jesus on what he means by using parables. And this part of the whole story is very meaningful for us today. The text directs our thoughts to all the privileges we now enjoy as God’s chosen people. But we have become so secularized. We take for granted all the abundant blessings we have received. But hasn’t it always been so?
The first reading from Jeremiah reviews the Israelite’s history of blessings from the Lord which were clearly lost at the time of the Exodus. The imagery used is from a people who are struggling in a desert, away from an abundant source of water. The people of God deserted the Lord (the source of living waters) only to worship idols (whose cisterns held no water.) This water metaphor is picked up in the psalm refrain, “With you is the fountain of life, O Lord.”
Back to the gospel reflection by Jesus: He asks the question of why does he use parables? (He is addressing his disciples not the crowds.) A second scriptural image is used here – to see and hear is to witness and to understand.
Yahweh used a parable to convert King David from his crimes of murder and adultery in Second Samuel 11 & 12. Only when the prophet Nathan told him a parable of a rich shepherd and a poor shepherd did King David recognize his sins and seek forgiveness of Yahweh.
Jesus used similar imagery when he addressed the “doubting Thomas” in John 20. “Blessed are those who have not seen but still believe”, i.e., blessed are we who are not witnesses, as you were Thomas, but still place our trust in the Lord.
We can reflect on this gospel and apply it to the secularization in our international scene, e.g., the European consortium of nations wrote their constitutions recently and adamantly refused to mention the effect of Christianity in the history of the European countries.
But each of us needs to apply this short interjection of Jesus to our own lives. We, each one of us, have been blessed unbelievably and yet we take it for granted. We need to listen to Jesus’ address to the crowds with the parable of the sower and his explanation of the seed as ‘His Word’ to each of us personally. How have we witnessed God’s presence in our life and trusted in his promises and understood its value?
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