12 July, Sunday — His Mercy Within the Parables

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55:10-11
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23

…all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.

As a parent to a toddler, I am beginning to understand the phrase ‘falling on deaf ears’ a lot more these days. My little one can often be lost in his own world of play and it takes several repetitions before he would register my words. Sometimes, my calls have to be accompanied with a tap on the hand or a raised voice. One method I try to use more now,  is to stoop to his eye-level and reorient his little body towards mine to get his attention. In retrospect, I see how God comes to me in my ignorance.

Like the disciples, I felt that Jesus could have spoken more plainly to the crowds, rather than in the parable of the sower and the seeds, which we read in the gospel today. While I have the hindsight of biblical commentaries to refer to today, I might have been none the wiser if I were to hear it as one of the many in the presence of Jesus.

‘You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
See and see again, but not perceive…
… many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’ (Matthew 13: 13-17)

Initially, I found these words pretty harsh. I wondered: why would Jesus speak in parables or riddles which might be lost on some people, if ultimately, he desired to save us all?

The answer would be because of God’s mercy towards those hardened of heart. Jesus already experienced a history of being rejected by the Jewish leaders of the day. He was seen as a renegade preacher and someone who did not belong to the aristocracy of their priestly class. Their hearts were hardened to receive what God was revealing to them through Jesus’ parables.

Hence, we see the apparent simplicity of using the imagery of the sower and the seed. This was Jesus’ spiritual device to reach out to the common folk who likely understood the context of trying to sow seeds in the fields. Meanwhile, this imagery would likely not ring a bell in the hearts of the hardened elite, since they would not have such life experiences. God’s mercy is His patience to wait for our ‘Yes’ to His promptings.

There are some who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. This is the man whose heart is like rich soil and receives the seed eagerly with a child-like spiritual posture. For the man who is blinded by prejudice, or too lazy to ponder the spiritual lesson, the parable conceals the truth from him – this is the man who received the seed at on the edge of the path. Jesus told the disciples that the evil one seizes such a moment, and like a bird swoops down to carry the seed away. Such a man hears without understanding as his heart is too full of himself.

Here is an interesting analogy I came across: The same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay; and so the very same gospel message that humbles the honest heart and leads to repentance may also harden the heart of the dishonest listener and confirm that one in their path of disobedience.

I am challenged today by the parable. Not only because I am reflecting on the kind of spiritual ground I have prepared within. More importantly, I am challenged and chastened to tune my soul’s posture to listen patiently. To be willing to read and listen repeatedly to the Word, and pause to put down whatever is distracting me. God’s parables are the merciful stories that He uses, to reach out to my level of spiritual understanding and connect with my heart and mind – wherever I am on the journey. How exactly have you been priming your heart to receive the abundance of love and wisdom that He desires to pour into you?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you. I want to know you. I want to follow and stay with you.

Thanksgiving: I thank you God for your mercy and patience in the beauty, simplicity, and mystery of the parables. I thank you for the eternal wisdom and message of love and salvation that is embedded in every one of these stories.

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