A reflection by Fr. Russ Sampson, SFM.

For a long time now, I have been taken up by the central theme of Jesus’ teaching, the Reign of God. Jesus could have given a detailed definition of the Reign but instead, he employed a technique that challenges people to explore this theme by means of stories – the parables.

Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, in his article “The Hidden Kingdom” (Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Monograph Series 11, 1972), uses the parables in Mark’s Gospel to explore the theme of the Reign of God.

Rev. Roger Vermalen Karban, Pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Renault, Illinois, says the following about “The Treasure in the Field” (Mt. 13:44), “The fact that Jesus frequently used (employed) parables while he was teaching, tells us a lot about what Jesus was trying to accomplish.”

Generally, a teacher uses parables not to add to students’ knowledge but rather to change a person’s “frame of mind,” to alter the way people process information. Fr. Karban suggests that the use of the parables in a method for “re-tooling the brain.”

Jesus’ parables undermined “the taken for granted” ways that people saw reality. Society and religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not like the way that Jesus looked at reality. Fr. Karban reminds us that anyone who processes people and situations through a different mindset is always a threat to the status quo.

An intriguing quote offered by Rev. Karban comes from a book by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan (HarperOne, San Francisco, 2009): “Perhaps more than anything else, Jesus’ parables caused his crucifixion.” What do you think about that? Did Jesus push too hard? Was he too direct in his challenges?

I have found that the parables place a person in a position that they have to make a decision or choice, to do some probing. The parables are revolutionary talk, they deal with paradoxes. They do not permit you to sit on the fence.