Thursday, January 26, 2017


Homily for January 27th, 2017: Mark 24: 26-34.

“Without parables [Jesus] did not speak to them,” Mark tells us. Why do you suppose Jesus chose parables as his favorite form of teaching? Well, who doesn’t like a good story? Stories have a universal appeal: to young children, but also to adults. But there is another reason why Jesus chose to teach through stories. Because stories are much easier to understand than abstract explanations. In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI writes: “Every teacher who wants to communicate new knowledge to his listeners naturally makes constant use of example or parable. ... By means of parable he brings something distant within their reach so that, using the parable as a bridge, they can arrive at what was previously unknown.”  

Moreover, stories have a way of grabbing not only our attention but our emotions. The second book of Samuel tells about David’s great sin: adultery with the wife of one of his generals. While his troops are in the field fighting for him, David is lounging around his palace in Jerusalem. From the roof he sees a woman bathing one day. He sends for her and has relations with her. God sends the prophet Nathan to David to rebuke him. Nathan does so by telling the king a story about a rich man who is unwilling to sacrifice a lamb from his vast flocks to feed a visitor. Instead he steals a lamb from a poor man who is keeping the animal as a pet. In anger David cries out: “The man who has done this deserves death.” David is convicted out of his own mouth. “You are the man!” Nathan tells him. (2 Sam. 12:1-6)

Today’s gospel contains two parables. The first tells us that God’s kingdom is like seed that a farmer sows in the ground. It grows secretly. Most of God’s work is like that. We grow discouraged because our efforts to build and grow God’s kingdom seem to bear so little fruit – or none at all. Unknown to us, however, and unseen, God is powerfully at work. One day – if not in this world, then at least in the next – we shall witness the result of this secret growth: fruit as astonishing as the enormous bush that grows from the tiniest of seeds.

Teach us then, good Lord, to trust always in you: to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to look for any reward, but that of knowing that we do your will. All this we ask in the name of your dear Son, who died that we might live; and who now lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.