Pastoral Message – July 16, 2023
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?
Have you ever heard that one?
When I was a kid in kindergarten, a speech therapist taught me this tongue twister. From my speech therapist’s point of view, this little play of words was supposed to “twist” my tongue so I could better produce sounds the English language required for comprehensibility. However, for my little kindergarten brain, I wanted to make sense of this nonsensical little poem. It wasn’t a syllogism, even though it could appear to be one. Plus, I was curious about that paradox of a hairless bear. Only in growing up, did I come to realize that it wasn’t important for me to know the story of a hairless bear – although I still appreciated the paradox. Instead, this was simply a pedagogical vehicle. A little phrase I was to repeat to train my tongue and my ear.
In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus often teaches, not by using tongue twisters, but brain, logic and soul twisters. We call these soul twisters ‘parables’. Parables are those illustrative, home-spun stories that point to a deeper, spiritual truth. Truth that is challenging. Jesus used between 30 and 50 different parables (the parable “count” depends on various Scripture scholars’ tally). But the truth Jesus teaches is singular, really quite unique to Jesus. The truth Jesus teaches is revelation – God revealing Divine Truth. As Christians we’re constantly challenged to accept this truth and live by it. Illustrating Divine Truth is the underlying purpose of each and every one of Jesus’ parables.
Today, in reading our Gospel passage before Mass, and in hearing the words of the Gospel in our liturgy, we’re given the opportunity to be challenged. We’re given the opportunity to grow up a bit; to mature as Christians. We should be twisting our imaginations to arrive at the Divine Truth that is a point of revelation for us. We might come to realize ever more fully that Divine Truth is challenging. We must readily admit that the challenge of Truth and the subsequent change that necessarily follows isn’t always something we embrace. Even though it’s boring to be stagnant, we often prefer to remain unchanged. Just as a pig prefers a mud hole, so we prefer to stay in a worldly, or even flat-out sinful mindset. But is that OK with us? (Ask yourself if it is OK to remain where you are spiritually. Be honest with yourself. It might shock you.)
Jesus challenges us in explaining his use of parables. He isn’t being obtuse or cynical in pointing out that some will understand and others, willfully, will not. He’s just stating a fact. That fact raises questions for us as Jesus-followers though. We need to know that these questions are much more personal. So ask yourself- Are you going to have eyes that see as Jesus sees? Are you going to have ears that hear and understand? Are you going to allow your heart to change your way of living? Or are you going to be the hard-hearted Pharisee? Are you going to be the cynical Sadducee? Are you going to be the immature, foolish hanger-on who might recognize Jesus but eventually refuse to see or hear or feel or think or be changed?
My advice to both you and me is to admit a need for greater conversion. And then listen fervently, see more clearly and embrace the challenge of Jesus more whole-heartedly!
God bless us all in taking up the challenge of Jesus’ truth!
Fr. Reynold (Wow, I got a little preachy today, didn’t I?)