Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’
With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
I guess it’s blasphemous to say that Jesus should have articulated something differently? When the Lord said that insight into the parables “to you has been given to know….but to them it has not been given,” I understand the meaning: it’s only through faith and deeper conversion that we come to comprehend Jesus’ words, way, and call more clearly. And, when it comes to conversion, we’re all still works in progress.
That said, I often tend to imagine myself among those who do get the meaning of those parables. Passages like this one become my subtle, insidious license to judge those I perceive as not getting it: whether Catholics who don’t interpret the world (or Gospels) as I do, politicians I disagree with, you name it. Instead of judging those arrogant Pharisees (and others) who don’t get it, today’s scripture invites me to pray for humble understanding that I myself don’t “get it” as much as I sometimes imagine I do.
—Chris Lowney is author of various books. His most recent is Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) published by Loyola Press.
Lord, I ask forgiveness for my judgmentalism, whenever that has manifested itself. Teach me to be a more humble person, who is preoccupied with understanding and following your Word, not with how others are living out their own followership of you. Amen.