Tuesday, June 20, 2006

To You It Has Been Given

Jesus often spoke to the people in parables. Indeed, St Matthew says, “he said nothing to them without a parable.” This was, for one thing, to fulfill the Scripture, as the evangelist notes: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world” (Mt. 13:35; Ps. 77/78:2).

There is something about uttering hidden mysteries that seems to require a kind of veiled language. Perhaps it is to avoid tossing “pearls before swine,” but more likely it is to stimulate the minds and hearts of those who hear the mysterious sayings—and if they are sincere and open, they will not cease to seek until they have plumbed their depths.

Jesus realized that there would be those who would hear and those who wouldn’t. He quoted the prophet Isaiah about those who have eyes but don’t see, ears but don’t hear, dull hearts, etc, who refuse to come to Him for enlightenment and healing (Mt. 13:13-15). These, after hearing parables, simply walked away scratching their heads and wondering why they went out to see Him in the first place. But it was different with his disciples. They went to Him saying, “Master, explain to us the parables.” Sometimes Jesus mildly reproached them for being a little slow on the uptake, but He blessed them for continuing to seek understanding, for wanting to enter into the mysteries.

So He revealed to them their singular privilege: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given… Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear” (13:11, 16). They probably didn’t realize how great was this gift, but once the Holy Spirit came in power, things became much more clear to them, and they became eager to share with everyone the secrets of the Kingdom.

We may not realize how marvelous is the gift we have been given, either. The very fact that you have chosen to read this now—unless you’re accidentally here while randomly surfing, but even then, welcome! and read on—means that you’ve already been initiated, at least to a certain extent, into the mysteries of the Kingdom. If you have faith in Christ and accept his revelation and his death and resurrection, then something has been given to you that has not (yet) been given to many others. There are so many people who have eyes but do not see, have ears but do not hear, and their hearts are closed to the grace and truth of Christ. They plod through life, not only devoid of the knowledge of the mysteries, but unaware that there even are mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven and untold riches of grace unto everlasting life. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear! I wrote last weekend that the Holy Spirit enables us to see things we hadn’t seen before, that is, to perceive and understand the mysteries God wishes to reveal to us.

So what do we do, now that we realize how blessed we are? First of all, give thanks, for we do not deserve such special treatment. Second, we must seek to go deeper into what we’ve been given, for even though we see and hear well enough to embrace Christ, we may still have a long way to go before our understanding—and its practical application in our behavior—is at the level He requires. Third, we have to try to help others see and hear, so that they too may be among those to whom the secrets of the Kingdom are given. The Kingdom itself is no secret, and Christianity is not some Gnostic sect reserved to the elite—its message is to be shouted from the rooftops, and to all. But it’s one thing to hear the message and another to be captivated by it, one thing to be offered a strange parable and another to thirst for deeper understanding of it.

Realize, then, what you have been given, “for to him who has, more will be given” (13:12). There’s no end to our exploration of the mysteries of the Kingdom.