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BEFORE THE CROSS | By using parables to reveal the kingdom, Jesus meets us where we are

Our human tendency is to turn away from Jesus in our shame, rather than accepting His invitation

We hear Jesus speak in parables a few times this week. He says the kingdom of God is like a landowner who went to hire laborers at different times of day. He says the kingdom is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and the invited guests refused to come.

Why does Jesus use parables? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Like a wise teacher He takes hold of us where we are and leads us progressively toward the Father” (CCC 2607).

Jesus wanted His people to know the truth, and the whole truth, about the kingdom. But telling them the whole truth right away and in plain terms would have been too much for them. So He spoke in parables first, to begin to open their imaginations to that truth. When somebody came with follow-up questions about the parables, that showed Him they were ready to take the next step. Then He would tell them more — taking them one step at a time, as they were able to receive, into the fullness of God’s plan.

That’s not only true of how Jesus worked 2,000 years ago. It’s true of how He interacts with each of us. Jesus wants nothing less than the fullness of the kingdom for all of us! But He’s not ashamed to meet each of us right where we are and wherever we are. But, too often we’re ashamed to let Jesus in where we are, and we turn away from Him rather than turning toward Him in the places of our shame.

There’s both truth and falsehood in the shame. The truth is that we do sinful things. We know they’re wrong, and we do them anyway. As a result, we’re not where we should and could be in our relationship with God. We know that, and we’re ashamed of it. I’m not going to tell you there’s no truth in that.

But there’s a lie that attaches itself to that truth: that we’re not where we should be, therefore Jesus can’t be interested in us. That we’re not where we should be, and we can’t let Him in until we are. In each case the first half is true, and the second half is a lie. When we accept the lie, it prevents us from accepting the invitation of Jesus to “take hold of us where we are and lead us progressively toward the Father.”

The truth is, it’s only by letting Jesus into those places that we’re going to be healed and get better. The fact that we know our sins is already a sign that He’s at work, illuminating our conscience. The fact that we’re frustrated with ourselves is already a sign that He’s at work, desiring something more in us and for us. Those experiences are signs that He’s standing at the door and knocking, right where we are, wherever we are. Will we open the door and let Him in to help us clean up the mess, or will we keep Him standing outside while we try to clean it up ourselves?

Brothers and sisters, in those places of shame, I repeat to you the words of St. John Paul II: Open wide the doors to Christ!

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