Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Jeremiah 2:1-3.7-8.12-13; Matthew 13:10-17)
We think of Jesus’ parables as charming stories that help people understand God’s working in the world. For this reason Jesus surprises us in today’s gospel by saying he uses parables to confound his listeners. Furthermore, Jesus’ citing the prophet Isaiah sounds mean-spirited. Does he really mean to disassociate from his listeners because they have shown hardness of heart?
Examining the context of Jesus’ remarks should enable us to understand what is taking place. Jesus has taught brilliantly to both the learned and the unschooled. He has also worked many mighty deeds – cures and even raising the dead. The people should have realized that he is no ordinary teacher, no regular healer. They should have recognized him as God’s chosen messenger announcing a new age. They should have repented of all their pride, greed, and lust. They should have committed themselves to doing God’s will. But they haven’t, and Jesus has stopped trying to break through their self-serving souls.
Hopefully, Jesus counts us among his disciples with blessed eyes and ears. Hopefully, we respond to God’s love for us with gratitude and willingness to serve. Should we, like Jesus apparently does in today’s gospel, write off those who don’t respond? No, that would mean not doing God’s will. The people Jesus encountered actually saw the living God. Today people get only a poor image. We must improve that image by better caring for others as best we can in Jesus’ name.