One reason Jesus speaks in parables is because, for people of faith, they reveal the mysteries of God, conveying spiritual, supernatural, and moral meaning; for those lacking faith, parables seem to be little more than children’s stories based on an experience of the natural world.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
27 July 2017
In Matthew’s gospel, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks to the crowds in parables. Jesus gives this answer:
To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Mt 13:11-12)
One reason Jesus speaks in parables is because, for people of faith, they reveal the mysteries of God and man, conveying spiritual, supernatural, and moral meaning in a way that is impossible to achieve by speaking in a mere factual, surface level manner; for those lacking faith, parables seem to be little more than children’s stories based on experience of the natural world. Those listening to Jesus with closed hearts do not really hear him nor grasp the depth of the message. They remain isolated from it by their hardheartedness. This points to the fact that a relationship with Christ involves, of course, a relationship with a Person. This relationship, like any relationship between persons, can only grow in an atmosphere of openness and self-entrustment. Knowing Christ involves a gift of self to him—it’s a step into mystery, into the unknown, into “darkness,” if you will. Like any relationship, we’re not sure what we are getting involved in at first. It begins with entrustment and discovery. For human relationships, it sometimes means pain and disappointment. But it is different with Christ, the Divine and Human Redeemer who is himself perfect, infinite Love.
Something else that stands out here is the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These are gifts God freely gives to those who approach him in humility, repentance of sin, ask to know him, and give their lives over to him. These virtues are ordinarily infused into the soul through the regenerative sacrament of baptism, and are also received or increased through other sacraments of the Church. God will not withhold these theological gifts from the person who sincerely seeks him in humility and repentance. These divine treasures infused into the soul by God, enable a person to grasp the meaning of Christ’s parables—they give us eyes that see and ears that hear. Nevertheless, we should not fool ourselves into thinking we have uncovered all their meaning, for they involve the mystery of God and his relationship with man. One can never exhaust the divine mystery of the transcendent yet immanent, infinite and perfect, all-powerful God.
Let’s focus for a moment on faith: the virtue of faith is primarily an attitude of self-entrustment to the Holy Trinity in which man freely gives himself entirely over to the Tripersonal God, assenting of intellect and will to all that God has revealed through the Church. To have faith is to believe AND live piously by everything God has said through his incarnate Son. It is an act of intentional, determined self-gift to Christ through which we give him total allegiance as our sovereign King. We live our lives for Christ, not for ourselves, filled with a desire for complete union with him in free and loving obedience. When we live in this way, by faith and in humility, recognizing our dependence on God, we grow in love for him. Our relationship with the Tripersonal God expands, increases, deepens. We then “have abundance.” This kind of life is a new way of living: it is human life in its fullness.
On the other hand, if we refuse to seek God, approach him in humility and repentance, failing to entrust ourselves to him, we will not receive the gifts of faith, hope and charity. Further, those who have faith but close their hearts to God will lose what they have been previously given. Although they may still on some level believe in God, it becomes a dead faith. This is itself the terrifying danger of the consequences of sin.
“but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
If we have not love for God—and remember that love is not constituted by mere intellectual belief—life in abundance is either never attained or lost; everything, in fact, passes out of our hands because to possess God is to possess all that is possible; losing him means losing all that is possible.
Those who lack faith cannot understand the mystery of God. In absence of faith, there’s no divine light by which to see, and the words of God seem but foolish nonsense cast out of darkness and into darkness. In order to understand God, we need his help. Let us always beg him to increase our faith to a fever pitch, that the way for union with Christ is opened, that our life may be transformed by him to the point that our soul vibrates at his every divine touch.
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Photo Credit: Carl Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.