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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus explains that he speaks in parables to baffle the crowds, who “look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” The parables of Jesus are often exercises whose purpose is to confuse and confound the hearer, overturning her expectations and upsetting her theological convictions.

God is just, but in light of the parable of the vineyard owner, one realizes that the ordinary notion of justice only vaguely indicates what divine justice is like. God is compassionate, but after hearing the story of the prodigal son, one knows that divine compassion infinitely surpasses even the most radical mode of human love.

But why is the biblical God so elusive? Because he brought the whole of the finite universe into existence. God must be other in a way that transcends any and all modes of otherness discoverable within creation.