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By JENNIFER BURGIN
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted..... they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand."
During my 2nd year of the University of Dallas Catholic Biblical School, one of our assignments involved writing a parable. With pen in hand ready to compose, I imagined standing on the mountain top next to Jesus as he preached. I observed his hand movements and gestures. From his viewpoint I noticed the look of amazement in the eyes of the crowds. Also, the disciples in the scene wondered why Jesus spoke to the people in such a different way.
Why parables? Christ was a master at parables. He presented divine truths in the form of symbolically rich stories easy to remember. He knew heavenly mysteries were not easily understood. The possibility of confusion and disbelief existed. By masking the meaning in the form of a parable, the crowds adapted the message to their own life experiences. This still rings true for Christians today. Every time we read a familiar parable in scripture, we apply its meaning in a new and fresh way.
Christ passed along the parable "answer key" to the disciples exclusively. He knew his chosen ones would listen and understand the message. His disciples needed strong knowledge of the faith so they could proclaim it with fervor. With this "answer key" they spread the good news of the gospels to the masses.
Look but do not see Many times we are blinded by superficial and physical beauty. We become mesmerized by attractive men driving their fancy cars or gorgeous women dressed up in the latest couture fashion. We want to date them, be around them or even become them! Unfortunately, looks deceive. The most beautiful person may be filled with hate and prejudice whereas the ugliest person is filled with love and compassion.
It's human nature to gravitate toward the sensual. It feels good, looks nice, and brings about pleasure. But do we pay attention to the subliminal messages? Is there more to the sensual than meets the eye? I think of popular Hollywood celebrities who are gorgeous physically but on the inside they are filled with pride and vanity. These popular stars cast aside the idea of God because their world revolves around fame and fortune.
Christians are called to "see" the inner goodness and beauty in others. We should adopt an attitude of gratitude in God-fulfilling ways. Turn away from filth and turn our eyes in the direction of holy pursuits. Look at Christ's work of salvation and see his greatness!
Ears but do not hear Have you talked to someone you knew wasn't listening? You can tell from the way the eyes shift or how glued the person is to an electronic device. The ears are present but the hearing switched to "off." Perhaps the person is uninterested in the topic of conversation, or they are too consumed with their own concerns. Such rudeness and insensitivity is quite a common everyday occurrence. Relationships can dramatically improve if we only stopped and truly listened to someone else. We miss out on a lot of good when we fail to listen.
Our Lord told many parables where people refused to listen. Their lack of understanding automatically tuned out anything they could possible learn from Christ. The same goes for us in modern day. We may not like what we hear, especially if it's politically or religiously charged, so we turn a deaf ear. Furthermore, we may like only part of the story but ignore the rest. I've listened to a few boring homilies over the years where I thought "Wow, this is not very good." Then when I reflected back on those exact same words I get an "Ah Ha!" moment. The Holy Spirit directly spoke to me but not in a way that I felt was engaging or entertaining. Sometimes Our Lord talks to us in subtle, ordinary ways. It's up to us to keep our ears open and listen to those quiet, hidden words. The Prophet Jeremiah looked for God to speak to him in a loud commanding way but instead Our Lord communicated through a faint whisper.
Let us always keep our eyes and ears open so Christ can convert our minds and hearts! Next time we read an all-too-familiar parable, let us prayerfully meditate on it and see what new spiritual fruit we will receive from the story's message.
"Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom. Alleluia!"
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality.