Monday, July 28, 2014

Dwell in Its Branches

This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods to serve and adore them, shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.  For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.  But they did not listen.  Jeremiah 13:10-11

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”  Matthew 13:31-32

Father, help us to devote time to better understanding the message in your parables. Help us to be your people and dwell in the branches of your Kingdom.  Amen.

The readings have been overdosing on similes and metaphors over the past few days.  The Kingdom of God is like:
  • A peal of great price.
  • A net thrown into the sea.
  • A loincloth.
  • A blossoming mustard seed/large bush
  • Yeast.
  • A man who sowed good seed.
  • A house with many rooms.
  • All of the above and more.

The question posed yesterday in the Sunday Gospel continues to apply today:  “Do you understand all these things?”  Our study is intended to help us to understand these and more that is revealed to us in studying scripture.  Sometimes we are helped by the homily when we attend Mass.  But on weekdays, most of us are on our own.

The parables used by Jesus are stories and allegories that illustrate and compare Christian truths and events of everyday life.  The notes to the NAB explain that, “Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples’ understanding and the crowd’s obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with.” 

Our work is to think about these stories and understand all of the various meanings.  The fact that Jesus uses many different stories means that heaven is not one-dimensional.  In fact, the Kingdom of God has many dimensions and each parable illustrates a different attribute of life.  Our understanding is enhanced as we add each allusion to our understanding of life.

Some of the parables continue to hold meaning today.  A pearl of great price in ancient Palestine is understood the same way today because we still value a string of pearls or pearl earrings.  However, we mostly buy our bread in grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants so some might not understand the relevance of yeast.  We also get our mustard in a condiment jar, spice bottle or little yellow packet.  Rarely do we grow it in Northern Virginia.   

Cursillo uses lots of other images:  rainbows vested across the blue sky; fields of flowers dressed for spring; and witnessing the sunrise on clear and bright mornings.  

How do you view the Kingdom of God?  What is your modern parable for the Kingdom of God?  What is your favorite image or parable?  

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