‘For there is nothing hidden, except to be revealed…’
The Parable of the Sower (3)
Mark tells us that Jesus begin his ministry by proclaiming
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ (Mark 1:15)
With Jesus, the Kingdom of God has drawn near. It is a time of urgency, for our eternal destiny is now at stake. Consider what St. Symeon said when he held the Christ child in his arms
‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed’ (Luke 34-35).
In other words, the clear call of Christ, and the urgency of our response, is bound to produce diametrically opposed results for those who hear him. This is not the purpose of Christ’s ministry, but it is its inevitable result. Jesus uses the challenge of parables in the hope that by puzzling over them, some might hear the quiet voice of God through the background noise of the world. This voice is proclaiming
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (II Corinthians 6:2)
The reality is that the Kingdom of God is marked by its hiddenness. The Kingdom of God is a mystery, whose shining presence is clouded by the world. Parables can help us unravel the mystery of the kingdom of God through active hearing, rather than merely passive listening, and by active perception rather than merely passive looking. A mother tells her child to pick up his room. Later, with dirty clothes still strewn on the floor, she says: ‘Did you hear what I said?’ That means, ‘did you do what I told you.’ This is the kind of hearing Jesus is calling for.
When he contrasts insiders with outsiders, Mark does it terms of an active ability to discern the truth about Jesus. The disciples are sometimes slow to understand, and are often chided for it. Others, who might be considered ‘outsiders’ by their society, or by their religious elders, often show the greatest insight; The woman with the issue of blood (5:34), the father of the epileptic boy (9:24), the woman who anoints Jesus (14:3-9) and the centurion at the Cross (15:39).
Pious Jews to this day recite a prayer from the book of Deuteronomy (6:4) called the Shema Israel, from its opening invocation, ‘Hear O Israel.’ In a similar way, Jesus begins his parable teaching with the call ‘Listen’ (v.3). The theology of hiddenness is not meant to discourage us, bug rather to exhort us to greater efforts to attain to the Kingdom of God. Hiddenness is not the final word, but revelation, for as the Lord declared:
For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. (v. 22)