In the last several weeks the Gospel of Matthew presented to us different parables, one after another regarding the Kingdom of God. I would like to write something about parables in general so that we might have an idea of the roll of this form of expression. In that way, we will have a better understanding of not only of one specific parable but of all of them.
Let’s start with a question. What is in the parables that after twenty centuries, they still talk to us today?
A parable is: simple, eternal and evident. But a deep glance could make them look: complex, contingent and open to many interpretations. Both faces are truthful, and each one expresses in its own manner the nature of the parable and the message hidden within. It is precisely for that reason that the parables are compressible for everyone, and the message found in them could be elaborated and presented to others in a more extended and deeper manner. That is why after 20 centuries, we still are surprised by the message of the parables.
The nature of the parable is a story, and as such easy to remember and to pass it on. Things would be different and difficult if everything was a theoretical statement. When we recount the story of the parable, we give to the new reader or audience the opportunity to re-interpreted the parable for their own community and time.
The goal of the parable is to make the readers the listeners to judge not about some fictional facts, but about something familiar to them. Presenting the facts in the form of parables allows the readers to see the story as indifferent to them, and give them the opportunity to be impartial in the judgement. Later going back to the reality they will be able to see the situation in the real world. A perfect example of this is found in the 2 Sam 12, in which David after listening with attention to the parable about the abuse of the rich man towards the poor, then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”(2 Sam 12,5-6). A perfect judgement. With the twist that Nathan the prophet makes the connection with the reality and said: “You are the man! .
Finally, don’t forget that in order that the goal of the parable might be completed the message should finish with us. These are stories, not only to be repeated, but also to be promulgated in some way that will have a lasting effect in the person who is reading it, making it actual and part of their lives. We should ask ourselves who reads them, how we judge, and how we apply them to our lives.