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The Power of Parables

The Power of Parables

June 17, 2024

“Without parables Jesus did not speak to them” (Mk 4:34).  Why parables? Why did Jesus use this poetic form to teach the word of God?  A parable reveals a universal truth.  Often the parables contain paradoxical messages or “contrasting (antithetical) and complementary (synthetic) parallelism” (The Gospel in Parables, John Donahue, SJ, p.1).  In today’s gospel (Mk 4:26-34) we have two parables where we see both the poetry in this literary form of teaching and the contrast in the ideas expressed.  First, we have the seed planted by the worker which grows by itself…nothing more is done…day and night it grows…how does this miracle happen? We behold the mystery, we engage in the mystery, we actually enter the mystery of ‘life’ happening in this parable.  Growth is happening, a grace that flows only through the small gesture or movement of planting seeds, nothing more, only the demeanor of faith.  The second parable focuses on the tiniest of seeds that becomes a very large bush.  Here we have a striking contrast:  what is small becomes big in the Divine reality, not the ‘big’ becoming ‘greater’!  As we enter this parable it turns our normal way of thinking inside out, it is the small, the unnoticed, the weak, the humble, that grows abundantly in grace and life, that becomes magnanimous in spirit.  Within the human fabric of our lives, the small, unassuming, poor, vulnerable reality is what God embraces fully and endows with abundant life.


The beauty of the parabolic form of literature is that it invites us to go beyond our present limited horizon into a new understanding, one that expands our horizon and places us into the manner and way of seeing as God sees…New wine new understanding awaits us as we engage in the parabolic discourse.  In commenting on the parables, Pope Benedict XVI says: “Jesus is not trying to convey to us some sort of abstract knowledge that does not concern us profoundly.  He has to lead us to the mystery of God….In order to make it accessible to us, he shows how the divine light shines through in the things of the world and in the realities of our everyday life.  Through everyday events, he wants to show us the real ground of all things and thus the true direction we have to take in our day-to-day lives if we want to go the right way” (Jesus of Nazareth, p.192).  The parables open the door to the mystery of God’s abundant life, a life that we meet in the simple ordinary events that touch the shore of our lives.  We have to allow the parable to address us interiorly because it is there in the inner depths where we will see the work God is doing, it is there that our horizon will expand into the expansiveness of Christ’s seeing and being.


Pope Benedict XVI continues: “The parables are ultimately an expression of God’s hiddenness in the world and of the fact that knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person—that such knowledge is one with life itself, and that it cannot exist without ‘repentance.’  For in this world…the gravitational pull of our lives is weighted by the chains of ‘I’ and the ‘self.’  These chains must be broken to free us for a new love that places us in another gravitational field where we can enter new life” (p.193-194).  What is Pope Benedict saying in these profound words?  There is a gravitational pull inherent within our depths.  Is this not the pull towards grace, towards God’s unconditional love? The first parable tells us about the abundance that happens from the simple gesture of sowing seeds.  The gravitational field of our lives is the place where God works healing, transformation, where life comes forth from seeds that are planted in faith and trust.


If God indeed lays ‘claim’ to our whole person then ‘repentance’ is essential. Repentance is about letting go of those chains of the ‘ego’ that weigh us down with fear, anxiety, where we are too centered on ‘me’.  Repentance is about turning away from our egocentricity, to changing our lives, especially where our thinking is rigid and narrow, and where we cut ourselves off from the perspective of Divine reality.  Let us notice when we experience ourselves weighted down by the chains of the ego. God’s gravitational pull is always present…calling us to dwell more in the field of Divine love where new life and fruitfulness will come forth in small and even larger ways in our day to day living.


The parables speak not only to our personal lives but also to the reality of the kingdom of God which we are helping to establish in our small ways by attending to the interior field of life as well as the field of God’s life in the exterior world.  There is no separation, it is all one field of Divine life…God’s gravitational pull towards peace and communion with all people is present and active right now.  Let us be stewards of the gifts that flow from the Divine heart…let us do the incarnational work of bringing God’s peace and transformative love to all people that we meet and in whatever work, no matter how small, that we are doing.  Amen.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – 11th Sunday of the Year – June 16, 2024, cycle-B

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