Back to Pilgrim's Progress and The Like are Cunningly Devised Fables


Back to Pilgrim's Progress and The Like are Cunningly Devised Fables

Parables and St. Matthew


Ricky Jones

Jesus was a teacher. He continues teaching us today and forever his message of love, service, and fidelity to God. There are many ways to learn from Jesus and the examples that he has left for us. The parable is a short fictitious story used to compare two things. Jesus made many comparisons to the Kingdom of God and he did it to help his followers to understand his message. Many people believe he should’ve spoke literally to them. This is not true because utilizing parables Jesus proclaimed his message in an easy to understand manner that was difficult to forget. So even the the story was short, simple, and relative to all, the message was instantly etched in the memory of those who had heard it.

“Jesus wanted to reveal the truth to those with faith”

Parables usually use stories of life and even though they are usually fictitious, they get to the point quickly and effectively. Jesus wanted to reveal the truth to those with faith, but also to keep the non-believers in there world of darkness. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t want them to be saved as well, but he knew that if they couldn’t open their hearts to the truth they would never understand what he preached. Ever since they learned of Jesus the Jews did not want to accept him as the Messiah and for that reason he left them to condemn themselves. Another reason to use parables is because they help us to see our faults and invite us to change and transform our lives completely. Those who came to hear Jesus had to make the decision to leave their past lives and follow Him with all of their hearts. Some followed Him and others decided to abandon Him and return to their previous lives.

Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand exactly what Jesus was trying to tell us, because he was speaking to specific communities in ancient times. Maybe it’s weird for us to relate to a worker in a vineyard, but for the followers of Jesus that was a big part of their lives. In Palestine in those times the majority of people worked very hard just to survive. Obviously there were rich people as well, but only them and their families lived in luxury. For this reason many of the parables of Jesus are based on work, whether in the fields or at sea. For them it was very easy to understand, but sometimes for us it is a bit more difficult. If we put ourselves in the shoes of those followers of Jesus, it really helps us to interpret the message that he was trying to convey.

So it is important to understand both the culture and lifestyle of those ancient people in order to understand the parables of Jesus. Any person can create their own meaning from the parables, and that is why it’s important not to search too deep to find the truth. Jesus brought us the truth to save us, but it’s important to know how to discern what is the truth.

Utilizing Parables in Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines catechesis as “education in the faith,” and for the majority of practicing Catholics the catechesis is the formal introduction that instructs the new converts on the practices, the beliefs, and the doctrine of the Church. Whether a child or an adult, it awakens curiosity about faith and spirituality, stimulating their minds. Jesus taught his disciples almost always using parabolic language, inviting them to drastically change their lives to follow His example of love and service.

“If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit”

Many times the Apostles did not understand the parables that Jesus shared with them and the asked Him to help them understand. Maybe the lack of comprehension was the problem they faced. Matthew gives us an example, when Jesus orders his disciples, “Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15, 14) If they were thinking literally, that is why they didn’t understand, but if we reflect on this saying and break it apart it is easy to find it’s brief, but important message. What is a blind person? A blind person is someone who has lost their vision and can no longer see. But what do the blind symbolize? In this case the blind could simbolize someone who is not atentive to what is going on, that doesn’t see the truth, and can not distinguish between good and evil. What about the other blind person? Well maybe the other is a conformist that does what everyone else is doing, that doesn’t make his own decisions, and is destined to fail, or “fall into a pit.” In this situation a blind person is following another blind person who himself cannot see the light. And since he does not have God as his guide, they will both remain in their world of sin, doing wrong and denying the hope that lies in the light, that is Jesus Christ.

“We begin to see the world in a different way”

Perhaps we could use this example in the catechesis to teach the new believers that Jesus has given us the opportunity to choose which life we want to live. There are many distractions in this world and if we allow the temptations to take control, then we are living the life of a blind person in the darkness and out of the truth. But if we have opened our eyes to the truth, which is confession of our faith and baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then God begins to change our lives and transform us into the people He wants us to be. We begin to see the world in a different way and now life has a new meaning. Now we have a purpose and we want to be a good influence for our friends, families, and all humanity, showing them the love and peace that we have found in Jesus. To open ones eyes and follow the Messiah signifies rebirth and the beginning of a new life, but on the other hand, to remain blind and follow the blind signifies falling victim to temptation and losing control of oneself.

The evangelist continues with many parables in his writings like that of the sower which we find in chapter 13, verses 1-9. In this example Jesus speaks of the seeds that have been sown, that simbolize the lives of God’s people. Jesus has spoken and proclaimed His message to all, sowing the faith in those who have listened. It is easy for the people to say they accept Jesus, but not all of them live based in their faith and the doctrine that Christ preached. A seed doesn’t grow alone and there are many obstacles that can impede the growth and develpment of the faith in each person. And just as a seed needs water, sunlight, and soil to grow, people also need many things. The seeds that didn’t fall in “rich soil” and died simbolize the people who for difficulty on the road of life have lost their faith and returned to a previous lifestyle. In this parable, the rich soil is the family community in which the people maintain their faith. In the end it is another example of how Jesus invites us to follow his doctrine, but each person must also fight against evil to earn their freedom.

This parable is very significant and we can utilize it in instructing of the catechumens. The sower teaches us that unity and brotherhood of the Church are very important parts of Christian life. The Church is the rich soil, a community that gives us what we need to grow in our faith, just as seeds absorb their nutrients from the soil to grow. The seed begins to grow roots in the soil, just as a new member of the Church begins to meet new people who through their love and service feed us and we begin to grow in our faith. It is a very good example for the catechesis because this way the catechumen learn that the Church is brings us closer to God and our brothers.

Analyzing the Parables of Saint Matthew

Another of the marvelous parables in the writings of Matthew is the generous land owner (20, 1-16). Jesus explains the Kingdom of God to his Apostles because they are confused in respect to what they will receive for being the first to leave everything behind and follow Him. The public consisted of people who worked in the fields, in construction, and as fishermen. This is why they could easily relate to the story. The owner of the vineyard didn’t need to hire more workers, but out of generosity he continued hiring more and more. From the beginning he was clear with the workers and he promised a piece of silver to each one for their work and they all agreed. But when the first to be hired saw that the other did less work and earned the same, the grew angry with the owner. Their envy made them so unreasonable that the forgot about the promise they had made with the owner and focused instead on the injustice.

Since Matthew wrote for the Jewish communities, he wanted to speak of something that was very important to them, justice. The workers didn’t see the generosity of the owner, just the injustice that they felt at the moment. For the Jews the Law was supreme to everything and they blindly followed it and it’s justice. If a woman was unfaithful to her husband, it was just to kill her as to not dishonor the husband. Each breaking of the Law had it’s just consequence. In this case the owner is fair to all because he pays them all the same wage. Even though some had worked longer than others they had to accept that the owner was fair and just, in concordance with their customs.

“nobody will recieve more than another in the Kingdom of God”

Digging deeper we find the message that the parable had for the Apostles and also for the Judeo-Christians of the first centuries after Christ. The Apostles believed that for being the first to be called by Jesus and follow Him in His ministry that they deserved more than the others. But Jesus made them understand that they were all equal and that nobody will recieve more than another in the Kingdom of God. The primitive Christians, just like us today, thought that since they had been Christians longer that the deserved more than the new converts. This is wrong and goes against what Jesus has taught us. This parable continues to teach us that we, the Church, should be humble and grateful for everything we have.

The Gospel according to Matthew is full of parables, in which Jesus gives many examples of His Good News. In the twenty-first chapter, verses 28 to 32, Matthew writes the parable of the two sons with a strong message in only four short verses. This story is very similar to the previous with the workers of the vineyard, but this time they are also the sons of the owner. It has more of a family feeling and the father sends his sons to work. They are both disobedient and disrespectful to their father, one for ………. and the other for lying.

“Anybody can call themselves a Christian…”

After repenting, the first son does what his father had asked. This is a symbol of a good Christian that realized his mistake and regretfully does what his father wishes, who simbolizes God. He knows that he has done wrong and does what he has to do to change that wrong into something good. The other son simbolizes the fake Christians whose actions don’t coincide with their words. He says yes, when he actually means no. Today he is the Christian that goes through the motions, but doesn’t live a truly Christian life. He doesn’t put his faith in God and he doesn’t follow the example of Jesus. This shows us that there are Christians with different ways of practicing their faith. Anybody can call themselves a Christian, but not everyone can follow Christ.