September 16, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is in Mark 4:10-13.
And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that ‘they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.'” Jesus said to them “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables?”
Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah, “which describes the predicted result of the prophet’s ministry rather than its purpose.” according to the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Otherwise, this doesn’t make sense to me — that they may not be converted and forgiven. That was the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry, but he seems to be following Isaiah in predicting the response that he would receive from those who remained outside, those who are unable to open their minds to see the kingdom of God that He offers through His living word, Jesus. They are like the thorns in the parable that choke out the germinating seed, the word of God, and bear no fruit.
For me, questions are the way to understanding and understanding is the way to accepting. That’s what the Twelve and the others present were doing. They were seeking to know the meaning of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God. That’s one of the characteristics of the Catholic church that drew me to it as a young adult. It didn’t just allow questioning; it seemed to invite it as a means of deepening my faith, of striving to grant me the mystery of the kingdom of God.
Even so, my understanding is always incomplete. As Richard Rohr wrote this morning in his meditation, “In Christ, I am bearing the mystery of the suffering of humanity, its sad woundedness; but I am also bearing the very glory of God, and even ‘sharing in the divine nature.’ I am a living paradox of divine and human, just as Jesus was and which Jesus fully accepted.” That is a mystery that while granted to me I am still not fully able to understand. That’s why Jesus tells me that if I don’t understand that, how will I understand any of the rest of his teaching about the kingdom of God? How can I help bring it about if I don’t understand that I am both human and divine and start acting like I know it? How can I accept that the mystery of the kingdom has been granted to me?
Jesus is asking me, do I understand that or not? Because everything else depends on that. I’m either an insider or an outsider. I am either rich soil or a patch of thorns. I usually think is this either/or way. I think that Jesus is trying to tell me that I am both, though. I am human and divine; I am an insider at times and an outsider at other times; I am rich soil producing fruit a hundredfold one season and a patch of thorns choking the germinating seed so that it bears no fruit. Still he has patience with me and forbearance. That remains a bit of a mystery because I have no human experience of that kind of love other than what is revealed to me in the gospels in the human person of Jesus.
It’s another indication to me that I have to give up trying to understand intellectually. The only real way to understanding God’s love is through experience — through prayer, through meditation, through loving others, through being the person He created — the only one in all time, by surrendering myself to Him and His love. That’s the way to entering the kingdom of God; that’s the journey. Only then will I really understand the mystery.