A year ago in June, Cathy Hilkert OP and Jude Siciliano OP led the Dominican Sisters of Peace at the Akron, Ohio Motherhouse in a retreat “The Reign of God Is Like.” It centered on the parables. And I was their liturgist/musician—a blessing for me, since I could soak in the insights and wisdom shared.
Throughout the retreat, a surprise element hidden in Jesus’ Parables sometimes elicited from me: “I’ve never noticed that before, and I’ve read it hundreds of times!” An example: one morning as a lead into our 20-minute centering prayer, this quote was read: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls…” Accustomed to hearing the kingdom of heaven compared to a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price—for which we want to be ready to sacrifice all to attain it—I was surprised to notice the kingdom of heaven being equated with the ‘merchant’ who was seeking fine pearls. The Kingdom of God (the merchant) is ever searching for pearls of great price—persons of faith being transformed by God’s love—whom God considers to be worth Jesus sacrificing all to attain them. How awesome!—to realize once again that we are so precious to God.
It’s a slight twist or an unexpected word or phrase in the parable that often leads me to an “AHA” moment of grace. That’s why I love Jesus’ Parables.
A week ago the Gospel for the day was Lk 10:25-37. It was about a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan, concluding with a question.
“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
I’ve always read this passage expecting and thinking the message of Jesus to be your neighbor is the down and out, mistreated, robbed person left for dead in this passage—love them as ourselves, and treat them as the Good Samaritan did. That’s what I expected.
But here was the twist: Jesus’ answer to the question who is my neighbor was: the one who treated the victim with mercy. We become what we love. So was Jesus telling the scholar (and all of us) love the true neighbor, the merciful one, as you love yourself? To love the merciful as much as we love ourselves, opens us to being transformed into the true neighbor—fashioned after God’s own heart. That seems to me not only wholly desirable, but also possible.
Another reason why I love Jesus’ Parables. How about you?