Paintings, Parables, Poetry.

These are some of the things that draw us back again and again for another look, another chance to see what we have seen and to be surprised by a new insight gifted to us. Or we might return several times to look in the face of a little flower for the spark of divinity that surprised us there.

We don’t expect the poet or the painter to leave us details of what she intended in her art and so spoil its living intensity. Similarly, we should not expect an explanation of a parable that would hamper its power to stir our lives to conversion. Such works of art lead us deeper into unnamed mystery, and in that deeper place our souls are turned.

What then is it with the disciples of Jesus, that they needed explanations? Mark’s Gospel makes quite a point of their lack of understanding. Could we imagine Jesus offering something like Cliff Notes or analyses of the parables. He might as well have skipped the parable genre and made his point in prosaic fashion, leading to only one view. Perhaps, Jesus has to help the disciples see the parable as the people saw it, grasp an essence for their own lives and then perhaps the life of society. Today’s gospel selection from Mark as well as the first reading from Ezekiel present us with parables of growth. In the Gospel passage, Jesus is talking about the reign of God, perhaps Ezekiel is speaking also of God’s reign in another age with the image of the sheltering tree.

What might they be saying to us or into what might they be calling us? The growth of God’s reign is a mystery to us, but that it grows is as visible to us as the harvest is to the sower, as the blossom is to the beholder.

When Jesus speaks of the reign of God he is simply speaking of God, that divine life that takes root in life’s subconsciousness but grows and is visible and audible to the one who has eyes to see and ears to hear.

Mark says in verse 33, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them…” It illustrates Jesus’ respect for the gift within the listener that can respond. Jesus is not a person of law. He is the mystic so one with God and is inviting us into an experiential knowledge of God – of the divine – into a life, not a law or a prosaic explanation. Let us draw the life from the parable and be amazed.






Elizabeth Ferguson OP