THAT’S what the apostles would often ask Christ after he preached to a crowd in parables. They could not get a full understanding of what Christ was trying to convey to the people, and so they would just ask him that.
Christ, of course, would explain and only then would the apostles get a good understanding. They were privileged to get that explanation because not all had that privilege.
This was dramatized, for example, in Matthew 13, 10-16. “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’
“He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables.
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“’You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused. They hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
This asking for explanation from Christ about things we do not quite understand can also be done today if we only do our part of really going to Christ through our prayer and our continuing formation. We need to pray and to study. These should be together, and never one without the other.
Our prayer and study will enable us to see God in the many things that confront us today. They will enable us to see his will and ways, the reason and the purpose of the many mysteries in our life.
We should realize that our formation of prayer and study is coterminous with life itself, which will always give us lessons. And that’s because the basics and essentials, the absolute, old and the permanent truths, which we may already know, will always have to cope and somehow need to get enriched by the incidentals in life, by the relative, innovative and changing things.
In his second letter, St. Peter urges us to go on with our formation: “Strive diligently to supply your faith with virtue, your virtue with knowledge, your knowledge with self-control, your self-control with patience, your patience with piety, your piety with fraternal love, your fraternal love with charity.” (1, 5-7)
And as we all know, charity is a never-ending affair, ever making new demands on us, and introducing us to more aspects, dimensions and challenges in life. It will always push us to do more, to give more, to be more.
We should always be asking Christ to explain to us the many parables and paradoxes in our life. We should never feel that we already have enough formation because we may have acquired some academic attainment and professional accomplishments. That certainly is a wrong move. In fact, we should cultivate the hunger for continuing formation, knowing that many factors connive to put it to a halt.
Number one danger is pride, the feeling that we are already OK because we know quite a lot to get by in life and even with some assurance of earthly success and prosperity. We can think, with some pieces of evidence to boot, that we are the leader of the pack, or at least are ahead of many others./PN