Eight Parables on the Kingdom (and how to get in)

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Chapter 13 of Saint Matthew’s Gospel contains eight parables told by our Blessed Lord:

1. The sower (verses: 1-10, explanation 18-23): Describes the different hearers the “word of the kingdom.” The seed that falls on the path is the people who don’t understand the great mystery they have received; in turn they don’t profit from it. The seed that falls on the rocky ground is the people who at once receive God’s word with joy, but don’t persevere in it over the test of time or trial. The seed that falls among the thorns are the ones one who hear the Word of God, but are drawn away to other things in the world. The preceding examples are sad cases. God offers his invitation of friendship to all, those who spurn can never fully realize their potential. Finally, the seed sown on rich soil represents all believers who are perfected by the grace they receive.

2. The weeds among wheat (24-30, explanation 36-43): tells us that not everyone who receives the invitation to the kingdom will dwell there eternally. We are reminded that it is not our place to anticipate God’s judgment by condemning those we consider to be sinners. More positively, the believer must always have love for everyone as they practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

3. The mustard seed (31-32): reminds us that the small beginnings of the workings of grace have big ends for their results. I’m reminded of Satan’s alleged words about Saint John Vianney, “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.” What could a few saintly souls mean for a city?

4. The yeast (33): This parable’s meaning is closely related to that of the mustard seed. Scripture scholars note that “three measures of flour” would be enough to feed a hundred people. A few people infused with grace can convert a city. This doesn’t mean, however, that we will see the results of our efforts. Blessed Charles de Foucauld made no converts and no one joined him at his monastery (during his lifetime). Thus the saying: “one sows and another reaps” (John 4:37).

5. The treasure buried in a field (44): shows how much a person might have to expend to possess the kingdom, everything. But, it is totally worth it. Joy always follows from the Divine Friendship even if a person has to suffer or give up all they hold dear.

6. A merchant in search for fine pearls (45-46): similar to the preceding parable, we see the great value of possessing the kingdom. Christians must put everything aside that stands in the way of their following Christ. But, we must note the subtlety that the kingdom, in this parable, is not the pearl of great price, rather the merchant in search. This merchant wastes nothing on what is frivolous, but expends everything for what is important. Our Blessed Lord gave everything for us. How much should we expend in the service of brothers and sisters?

7. The net thrown into the sea (47-50): the kingdom is like the net because it is meant for everyone just as the net is meant for all fishes. Unfortunately, not all fish are worthy of the catch. The bad fish may consider themselves good, but we are judged by God who tests our hearts and weighs our deeds. Self-image matters little, considering that we are made in the divine-image. Good works follow from the identity God gives us.

8. The head of household (51-53): This final parable of Matthew 13 deals not with the kingdom itself, but those who represent or propagate the kingdom to others. The supposition here is that the person who had been “instructed in the kingdom of heaven” accepts and lives the kingdom. Frauds need not apply. The authentic disciple-who-becomes-teacher pulls out “treasures old and new.” These are treasures because they are teachings which are worthy of the kingdom of heaven.

The parables spoken by Our Lord hide the kingdom from those who are unworthy of it, but expose its richness to those who are destined for its glory. Hearing the proclamation of these parable should awaken in the believer a desire for moral conversion. Moral conversion should always be a part of every person’s life. Moral conversion is the only way which we can follow the Lord Who beckons us to follow Him even closer. Without the grace we receive in each of the Seven Sacraments none of this is possible. Let run to the Sacraments which we can receive frequently: the Most Holy Eucharist and Penance… And let us be hearers and doers of the Lord’s parables!

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