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Friends, today in our Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks to the crowds in parables. Jesus is explaining the kingdom of God in these provocative and puzzling stories and images that seemed to be his preferred way of preaching. And he replies to his disciples, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” In other words, because the crowds refused to believe in him and what he has to say.

Many parables are strange and initially off-putting and puzzling. Of course, that is the point of parables: to bother us, throw us off base, confuse us a bit. How characteristic this was of Jesus’ preaching! He rarely lays things out in doctrinal form: he prefers to tell these puzzling, funny stories. Why? Because in many cases, stories reveal truth that arguments can’t quite capture.