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A gift for the multitudes

· Meditation ·

Matthew 13:1-9

The glad tidings which these pages of the Gospel offer us tell us of Jesus’ relationship with the crowds, with the multitudes – and Matthew, unlike Mark (4:1), speaks in the plural to indicate through them the totality of human beings – who go to him. Jesus answers them by teaching, talking, giving them the Word which is one of the greatest gifts that the Lord made to his people Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 4:32-33) and to the Church (cf. Jn 17:7, 14), in order that they might be witnesses among the peoples (cf. Lk 24:45-48).

Ivan Grohar “The sower” (1907)

Yes, Matthew proclaims the Lord’s great love for all men and women who are depicted as crowds who follow Jesus on his pilgrimage and for whom Jesus feels visceral compassion, for he sees them as sheep without a shepherd and thus weary, worn-out and exhausted (cf. Mt 9:36). In the Old Testament too this compassion and tenderness of the Lord for humanity is shown, this visceral love which grips him when he sees people who are wandering without any orientation, who cannot tell the right from the left (cf. Genesis 4:11) and to whom, in order to meet their needs, God had sent a prophet.

To these same multitudes, as a sign of the great love he felt for them Jesus was to give himself, his very own body, in the great mystery of the Eucharist, a prophecy of the event of his Cross and his Resurrection.

Therefore precisely because he loves, as a sign of his compassion Jesus teaches. Jesus “sat down” (Mt 13:1), a position of the teacher; and he did so of his own initiative, without any request, as a response to an expectation which he interpreted, to a need that was not verbally expressed but was felt existentially by those who followed him. And as a sign of his love Jesus speaks, since God, of whom he is the definitive Word, had always done so (cf. Heb 1:1-2). Jesus acts like the Father and does the same works as him, for it was from him that he learned them (cf. John 5:19); he always turns his gaze to God (cf. Jn 1:18), he lives in intimacy with him (cf. Jn 16:31) and from him he takes his very words which, as a gift that he himself has received, he gives in turn to men and women (cf. Jn 12:49-50).

Like the Father, in speaking Jesus consigns himself to speaking, he makes a gift of himself; thus listening to his word is first and foremost acceptance of him and of his will for communion with every human being.

Peter Breughel the Elder, Countryside with the Parable of the Sower (1557)

And Jesus speaks in parables precisely because of his deep compassion for men and women. What condescendence on the Lord’s part! The parable is a sign of mercy, of respect for the frailty of human creatures on whom Jesus does not want to lay too great a burden, the burden of a revelation that crushes them and before which they may not find themselves free to answer “yes” or “no”. Jesus is aware of and cares for human weakness and frailty, and he adapts his preaching to them both by his approach – he sits down in silence on the shore without inviting the crowds himself, without imposing himself but takes the initiative and then waits, he remains there and finally welcomes them – and by his words. He uses the delicacy of speaking in parables, so that each person may understand according to their own capacity (cf. Mt 13:9), according to what the Father will have given them (cf. Mt 16:17), and also according to how each one will have accepted to make room for the word that Jesus proclaims (cf. Mt 19:12).

Thus even in what he proclaims Jesus is not a protagonist but rather is obedient to men and women, to the Father, to the power itself of the words that have been entrusted to him to pass on. And in this way the first parable that Jesus proclaims is the parable of a seed that is sown, of the seed of the word (cf. Mt 13:9). This seed is offered, given and entrusted to us so that it may bear fruits of life in those who accept it with joy and gratitude. But are we – and perhaps this is the unspoken question in this text – aware of the immense gift we have received?

 

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