After the Beatitudes, the Parables of Jesus go to the very heart of the Gospel message. They are Jesus’ favorite forms of communication for, in them, he uses beautiful images drawn from nature and the ordinary lives of people.
Thus, he talks about the rich man who was dressed “in purple garments and fine linen” (Luke 16:19) and the poor man, Lazarus, who, “covered with sores, would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:20). This insightful parable points to the unimportance of wealth and possessions when it comes to loving God and our neighbor, and the crucial importance of living an authentic human life based on compassion and love of God and our fellow man.
Jesus also talks about the Sower of seeds in the ground when He wants to describe the effects of the Word of God in people’s lives; He talks about the mustard seed and the yeast when He wants to show the growth of His Kingdom; He offers images of pearls and hidden treasure to stress the importance of His Reign. In the Parable of the Fisherman’s Net, the catch of fish is not perfect, so we learn the lesson that His Kingdom on earth is a mixed bag and that we all have to work to root out those things in our lives that hinder us from following His message.
These Parables are indeed stories but they are stories about the reign of God, and they are for everyone. They are for those who, over a long time, search and yearn for God’s spiritual Kingdom and finally enter into it. They are for those who suddenly come upon the Kingdom, recognize it and are welcomed into it. The Kingdom of God, which is a spiritual kingdom of faith, hope and love, is a grace on this earth, and even the acceptance of this kingdom in our lives is a gift. But it demands continued acceptance and cooperation by everyone so that they can give their all to live up to “the better angels” of their natures here on earth.
Some of Jesus’ Parables are very brief, some are lengthy and more complex. But all of them are about uplifting our souls, redeeming our human nature, and entering into true and lasting relationships with one another and with God, who is our Father in Heaven.
All of the Parables, however, are as immediate and touching as the evening news. Not only does Jesus speak directly to us and make us a part of the story, He even demands that we provide the ending.
The ending to the Parables is what really counts, and it is up to us to provide a good ending. We do this when we try to bring faith, hope and love into our world, through our actions.
The Parables, like the Beatitudes, show us how to do this.