For the past three Sundays, Gospel readings were all about parables.
The parables are related to the ordinary life of the people. But these portraits of real life are not an end in themselves. The most important thing about parables is that Jesus communicates to us, through them, a divine meaning in human affairs. In them he gives the events of life a new meaning. He gives us a new vision of everyday life. (The Messanger, Irish Jesuits publication)
With a congregation mostly belong to middle class who are also well schooled and many are working in government agencies, there are times I feel uncomfortable in my sermons and reflections. Not because I am afraid to speak what the real message is all about but the challenge is how they are going to receive the message openly and reflectively.When I look at their eyes, some are blank or they sit there pretending to listen while others look back questioning. But what makes me feel satisfied when the 15 percent in the pews who are from the nearby urban poor community smile and even nod their heads in agreement. It makes me feel good and happy.
Why Jesus used parables instead of explaining directly the point of his message was because people who are not well schooled can understand and can relate the message Jesus wanted to convey with their everyday life. That is why, it is difficult to convey the gospel message to people who are not familiar with the realities of the everyday life of the poor, deprived, needy and those who are from the urban poor communities.
When I asked the congregation who among them had eaten an unleavened bread they just smiled. Of course, they are only familiar with Delifrance, Le Couier, and good quality bakeshop… But to those who have tasted/ eaten a week-old bread, they hardly can smile especially when they only have few remaining teeth because they can not afford for denture even to see a dentist!
Sermons are not to please the listeners but challenge them in order to reflect the gospel message. So smart of Jesus to use parables to challenge his listeners to have a change of heart. Yes, not for the poor, needy and deprived but Jesus was urging, questioning and challenging those who are the opposites. In other words, why there are poor? why there are so many in needs? why there are so many people deprived of living good life? But only few enjoy God’s blessing compared to the many who are not.
In the campaign add of UNHCR, its Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie says: “One Is Too Many”
One family forced to flee is too many;
One child growing up in a camp is too many;
One refugee without hope is too many.
DO ONE THING!
Do we have to wait these multiply? When “too many” becomes an accepted reality? What Christians are doing today? We just pray and hear mass, like we do every Sunday. How comfortable and relax are we without being bothered with what is happening out there everyday? That makes a parable easy to understand but it is difficult to live out. But the message of the parable will only be complete when each one of us will allow ourselves to be transformed. And that transformation will reflect on how we respond, on how we are going to act.
That was why when Jesus said that when somebody throw you a stone, throw back a bread instead. However, an unleavened bread is hard as a stone. What a joke! But a leavened bread can be divided and easily be shared, that was why the leavening added by the woman to the flour is significant BECAUSE IT ALLOWS THE BREAD TO BE SHARED. For the Reign of God is not limited for a few nor a monopoly by those who are at the top and with power. GOD’S BLESSING MUST BE SHARED BY EVERYBODY!
However, our own interests, vested and the like plus the many layered structures and oppressive systems in our society stem so many differences, gaps and divisions that hinder the sharing of bread to everybody that resulted to too much poverty. They result to exclusivity like: exclusive schools, exclusive clubs, etc… more layers of division and separation. So the real meaning of the gospel message of the parable was thrown out, modified and even changed. The inclusiveness of the parable that is sharing bread to everybody becomes so exclusive and monopolized. Look around us: private property, No ID No ENTRY. With various restaurants lining up the streets no one could enter if you cannot pay.
That is why, at the end of the day… many are still hungry and sleep through the night with their stomach empty.