(Practicing) Catholic - Recognize God In Your Ordinary Moments

06-16-2024Pastoral ReflectionsColleen Jurkiewicz Dorman

Living Parables

Whenever someone begins a sentence with, “This parable means…” I roll my eyes. (Sometimes I do this inwardly, to be polite. But I still do it.)

We have a tendency to treat the parables like our mom’s favorite casserole recipe. Ah yes, we think as we sit down to dinner, smiling as we inhale the aroma of childhood. Good ol’ mushy-chicken-rice-thing. I recognize you. I know exactly what you are. I don’t even have to think about you.

Parables are often presented as an example of how God stoops to meet the limits of human understanding: truth, but in a cute little story! And while it’s certainly true that the parables of Christ — each word, each detail, each character — are painstakingly crafted to suit the imagination and intelligence of man, we need to be careful how we think about that.

Sometimes we have a tendency to think of parables as simple and formulaic. We consign them to the genre of bedtime stories, whose point is to soothe, to lull. But these are stories that are meant to keep us awake. They are meant to keep us wondering.

When Christ spoke of the mustard seed, he was speaking the truth in words that his disciples needed to hear two thousand years ago. But he was also speaking to you today. And he was speaking to you tomorrow and next year, and three years from now, and on your deathbed. If you read this parable on each of those occasions, you will hear something different each time. The parable, you see, is something alive.

It doesn’t change, exactly, because the truth never changes. But people change, and what they need to hear changes too.

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you can finish Jesus’ sentences.

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.” — Mark 4:33