Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ex 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b; Matthew 13:10-17)
Flannery O’Connor has been called the greatest American Catholic novelist. Yet her novels are seldom about Catholics. Rather they concern the working of grace in peculiar Southern country people. Once she was asked why she wrote about such strange characters. She answered that when people are near deaf, you have to shout at them.
Jesus responds similarly to the question, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?” We need such on-the-money stories to wake us up to God’s goodness. The parables tell us that God is so generous he will pay laborers who only work an hour a full day’s wage and that God’s kingdom is such a treasure that it is worth selling all we have to attain it. But in a world with so many diversions – from home entertainment systems to iPhones – Jesus’ message still does not always get through.
Some people see parables as make believe. Since they do not bring immediate gratification, they are not worth pondering, much less pursuing. These people might be right if the parables were not validated by Jesus’ life. He becomes the seed that dies in order to produce abundant life when he allows himself to be crucified. He is the shepherd who searches for lost sheep when he spends his time with sinners and the poor. Because of Jesus’ testimony the parables not only entertain, they move people to follow him.