16th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year A
Jesus put a parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’
He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’
He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until it was leavened all through.’
In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:
'I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.'
Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’
This passage is packed with parables. The disciples must have commented on Jesus’ use of parables because he felt the need to explain his reason for using them. The parables would have intrigued the disciples, especially as so many of the parables used situations and items that were familiar to them. The disciples would have speculated about their meaning, but obviously needed to ask Jesus many times for an explanation.
Jesus teaches us in the same way. Our lives are full of parables. Simple (and sometimes amazing) situations have the power to help us to know Jesus and to follow him with greater faith and understanding. We need to have open eyes and listening ears in order to find and understand the parables present in our lives.
In the parables in our lives we find Jesus the personal teacher, who writes the lessons specifically for each of us according to our needs. Like all students we need to be attentive to the teacher if we are to understand the lesson.
Being attentive can mean forming the habit of asking during the day “Lord, what is this all about?” or “Jesus, help me to understand this situation”, or “Lord, what do you want me to learn out of this?”
Taking time on a daily or weekly basis to reflect in a prayerful way upon the events of our lives – ordinary or extraordinary – can also provide the moment when we have listening ears and open eyes and the parables become apparent. It is not always easy to do this, as these very same events can propel us onwards to the next thing as if we are on an escalator, and the opportunity for engaging with the parables in our lives slips away.
Jesus’ interest in each of us is personal and individual, and so are the parables hidden in our lives. They are more interesting, life-changing and individualized than the lessons in any personal improvement book in a bookshop.
The meaning of the parables Jesus used was not always obvious to the disciples. They asked about them and Jesus responded with explanations. Accessing our personal parables is as simple as wanting to, and seeking the help of the Teacher who prepared them for us.