Parables: Hearing Beyond Word; Seeing Beyond Pictures
Stories! We all seem to love them. We read novels. We watch movies. We follow many a TV series. Jesus told many stories as he walked with his disciples. The Gospels call these stories parables. A parable is a story based on ordinary life – gardens, fishing, working, playing. But parables are about more than ordinary life. Such stories take us to another dimension. They allow us to see the spiritual side of our lives, taking us beyond the ordinary, the material, the social dimension which so often dominates.
Jesus uses parables to tell us what the Reign of God is like, what it means for us. This Sunday we hear two of Jesus’ parables. The ordinary, the material element of the stories focuses on planting seeds. But Jesus tells them for the other element, the spiritual dimension of the reign of God. As Jesus puts it: The reign of God is as if..... or is like.....
Mark’s Gospel offers us a parable about the person who scatters the seed on the ground and then has to wait patiently for growth to occur. We cannot control the reign of God. It comes because of God, not because of us. And it demands patience not pushiness on our behalf. It calls for a willingness to sow the reign wherever we are and then patiently wait while God works in us, in those around us and in our world.
Some 30 years ago, an archbishop in El Salvador, Oscar Romero became heavily involved in working for the poor and disadvantaged of the country. He was assassinated by some of the powerful people who resisted his efforts for the poor. His words, before he died are a call for us to recognize how we work for the building of the reign of God. It is God’s reign, not our own. Our efforts and willingness to commit are important. But what becomes the reign in the midst of our world will come from God, not from us. Here are Oscar Romero’s words:
This is what we are about. We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds
already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that
will need further development. We provide yeast that produces efforts far beyond
our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in that.
This enables us to do something and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a
Beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do
the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the
Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
Our Christian call demands our efforts, but we do not control the results. Patience not pushiness, commitment, not control builds the reign of God for all humanity.