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Seeds and Stories

Jesus didn’t preach for the rich and powerful; he served the poor and lowly. That suggests something about the Kingdom of Heaven beyond the parables he uses in today’s Gospel reading. 

Jesus utilises familiar scenes and the ordinary matters of everyday life to explain the nature of the Kingdom of God to the people who gathered to listen to him. In today’s reading, we hear him talking about baking and farming. Anyone can understand these metaphors given time, and his scenes are vibrant with the stuff of good storytelling. He even uses dialogue so that we find ourselves within the world of the story, hearing the conversation between the servants and their master. Jesus is specific in his detail, naming the seeds and the weeds, making the words pop with authenticity. He frequently uses the rule of three, and on this occasion uses three separate parables to build his picture. 

Why did he do this? Was it really just to fulfil prophecy as the author of Matthew suggests? Why doesn't he simply provide a clear description of the Kingdom of Heaven?  Theologians are still discussing what he meant by that to this day. 

Jesus knows his children and we love a good story. Through making us work for meaning, to look for what is hidden behind the words, Jesus allows us to explore ideas and use our imagination. This is fertile ground, and we remember his teaching so much better for it being contained in a story that we have to interpret and engage with. He makes us think, but never is the meaning out of reach, thanks to the simplicity and familiarity of the imagery used. I never feel tricked by Jesus after reading one of his parables; I only ever feel enriched.  

On this occasion, Jesus does explain the parable about the “darnel in the field”. It is sobering and confronting. Jesus insists that we listen to his parables and take heed. But with every story there are so many interpretations, and so many ways to read them.  

Is he describing an apocalyptic end-time, or our own personal end-time of death? Are the weeds really evil people who are destined to burn in a blazing furnace, or are they the challenges of our lives, those aspects of ourselves that we have do discard in order to be true disciples?  

That they are open to such interpretation means that we can return to the parables of Jesus again and again, and continue to harvest meaning. Wherever we are on our own faith journey or stage in life, the parables provide something fresh and new. These stories and the teaching they hold is for everyone – as Jesus said - “Listen, anyone who has ears!” 

Today's Readings:    Wisdom 12:13,16-19     Psalm 85     Romans 8:26-27    Matthew 13: 24-43

Source: Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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