Do You Not Understand This Parable?

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 37:3-4, 5-6, 27-28, 39-40

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
Criminals are destroyed
and the posterity of the wicked is cut off.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Gospel: Luke 5:33-39

The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.”
And he also told them a parable.
“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”


sept 2

Upon first listen, Jesus’ parables seem a lot like metaphors. Metaphors take something we know and use it to help us better understand something unfamiliar. For instance, when Romeo says, “Juliet is the sun,” we can take what we know about the sun: its significance, its beauty, its danger, and apply those qualities to the girl in question.

But, that isn’t quite what happens in a parable. There’s more to them than that. The stories themselves seem understandable enough: seeds fall various places, the owner of a vineyard wants to collect from his tenants, a cloak needs patching. But what the story actually means, or how it applies to what Jesus is talking about? Well, that’s less obvious.

Jesus says as much Himself. Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’ (Luke 8:9-10.)

He says He talks in parables SO THAT WE WON’T UNDERSTAND.

And sometimes not even the Apostles get to get it.  And he said to them, Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:13.)

The point of parables, then, is not to explain something, but rather, to make us think about something. To chew on it. The parables don’t change, but the journeys on which they take us, and the conclusions to which they lead us, can change. We can hear the same story and draw a different meaning from it, as our experiences and circumstances change. And that’s the beauty of the way Jesus chose to teach His followers then and now. He doesn’t always hand us answers and explanations, sometimes He gives us questions and tools.

We’ll get to the answers, just not necessarily right away. As Friar Lawrence says to Romeo, “Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.”

Have you examined the parables? Do you find them confusing or inapplicable to you? Look twice. Look deeper.

photo credit

Kendra Tierney lives in Los Angeles, CA where her interests include blogging, homeschooling, looking after her eight children, and fixing up a hundred year old tumbledown mansion. You can find out more about her here.

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