Those who learned to reflect on the implications of their faith from catechisms will have
a hard time understanding Sundays Gospel (Mt 13: 24-43).
Because of their analytical perspective, the authors of catechisms dont look at
faith the same way that the authors of Scripture look at it. Catechisms present belief as
a series of questions and answers, giving an impression that it can be experienced on the
level of either/or. We hear the question, give our answer and wait to find out
if were either right or wrong.
Thats not how the sacred authors do it. Instead of analyzing, they synthesize.
Instead of tearing apart, they combine. Instead of experiencing faith on the level of
either/or. they experience it as both/and. They almost always give
several different but correct answers to the same question.
Thats exactly what Jesus does in Matthew. Hes dealing with a single question:
What is the kingdom of heaven like? But He gives multiple answers.
First of all, kingdom of heaven (or the reign of God) doesnt
refer to the place we go after we die. Its the term Jesus and the people around Him
employed to describe God working in their everyday lives. Even those who didnt
believe in an afterlife believed that God was somehow present as they went about their
Jesus and those who followed Him were convinced not only that God was present, but also
that God was working in their lives for good. Yet they never could find just one perfect
way to express that belief. Notice how many different answers Jesus gives in these few
First, it may be likened to someone who sowed good seed in his field. While
everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat. The
result: Youve got good and bad intertwined. Only at harvest will they be separated.
Second, its like a mustard seed a person took and sowed in a
field. Though small, it grows into a bush large enough to hold perching birds.
Third, its like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures
of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened. It permeates and changes every
element in which you find it.
We who analyze are waiting to find out which one of the three parables is correct and
which two are wrong. Those who synthesize are waiting to find out how many more parables
Jesus can employ to describe the same reality.
The authors of Scripture looked at their faith as an element which took them
beyond the either/ors of life. It permitted them to step into Gods life, an
experience which can never be simply described or explained. Even after one tries to
describe or explain it, theres always another description or explanation lurking
around the corner, just as correct and valid as the first one.
Thats why the author of Wisdom uses so many contrasting concepts to convey
Gods personality (Wis 12: 13, 16-19). Yahweh condemns, yet is the source of
justices; is master of all, yet is lenient to all; is mighty, yet
judges with clemency.
Thats also why Paul reminds his friends in Rome that they need the Holy Spirit in
their lives (Rom 8: 26-27). Only the Spirit can help them reach that level of their
existence in which God is most at work. Without the Spirit, we wouldnt even know how
or for what to pray, and certainly wouldnt be able to discover Gods will for
Though many of us Catholics would pay closer attention and feel more secure if the Sunday
readings came from a catechism instead of the Bible, well never come near to
reaching the depth of faith which Jesus and our other ancestors in the faith reached by
just giving set answers to set questions.