Why did Jesus teach through parables?

This week we again hear of the parables of Jesus: weeds among the wheat, a mustard seed, and yeast that makes the dough rise. Parables are a special type of story that are meant to make one point. Parables teach by way of paradox and give us a new insight into life. A parable is a story that draws images and metaphors (using one point of comparison) from the common life of the people.

There is usually an unexpected turn of events in a parable. At the moment of surprise, we are invited to enter into the insight of the parable. Many of the parables of Jesus are drawn from an agrarian society. Modern parables might draw on themes of transportation (e.g., The kingdom of God is like driving on I-66 when another driver lets you merge into the lane …) or commerce (The kingdom of God is like a person who cuts in line in front of everyone else waiting in line to enter Costco or Walmart ….). Think of the parable of the workers paid the same amount at the end of the day, even though they worked various hours. This wisdom teaching of a parable often has a message that we do not want to hear at first and may surprise or even shock us.

Parables allow us to pass through the gate of our own little world into solidarity with the whole human family. The shift is from “the community for me” to “me for the community.”

The parable of the weeds among the wheat is one that may not come to mind at first when we think about parables. However, it leads us to consider our own ways of thinking. For example, the common approach is to pull up all the weeds at once. When we find people doing things wrong, we may want to have them punished severely and immediately. God’s approach is to allow for repentance and conversion. By a patient approach, one is illustrating that we place trust in God, who will ultimately triumph.

The parable recognizes that in taking the freedom away from the person sinning (signified by the weeds) we may also be taking away the freedom for the person who responds justly (signified by the wheat.). Then there would be no response at all to God’s word sown among us! The mystery of God’s kingdom is offered to us. Ponder an aspect of that mystery that you find puzzling or difficult to accept.

Father Lee Roos