24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - 15/9/2013 - Gospel: Lk 15:1-32
Parables in the Bible express the unlimited love of God for the human race and the power of forgiveness which is beyond human expectation. The parables use comparison or analogy to convey their message. Unlike fables and fairy tales that use animals, plants, objects, and forces of nature as characters, the parables generally feature human and human's behaviour as key players in the story. For this reason, folktales and fairy tales have some elements similar to parables but they are fables, not parables. The parables give few details with no specific location and are real stories that take place in a familiar setting of life and mainly centre on actions of a person or a group of people. For this reason the parables are timeless. Their meanings can be use useful for all cultures at all times. The purpose of the parables is to help a person to recognize and appreciate God's compassion and love which is beyond our comprehension and how one should response to the mystery of God's kingdom. 

Parables have the same structure with three parts: setting up a scene and then followed by actions that come to the surprising results. It often involves a person who faces a moral dilemma or questioning about the currently unhappy situation and would like to make a revolution. Soon after the revolution the person experiences hardship of life, unloved and abandoned. At one level the meaning of the parables is obvious and straightforward but at a deeper level the meanings are mysterious and are hard to decode. There are several reasons for it. Firstly it is the employment of metaphorical language to explain a difficult concept. Secondly the parables use visible things explaining about the extraordinary and invisible concepts. Thirdly the parables contain some element that is strange or unusual that is unfamiliar to the logical thinking of our minds. Fourthly is the element of familiarity for when we are too familiar with the story we become a passive listener and miss the point Jesus talks about. Fifthly the cultures and customs background are unfamiliar to the modern day that makes even harder to envisage the complete picture of the society where Jesus lived. Lastly it is the intention of Jesus himself to reveal the meanings of the parables to his disciples case by case. 

Then the disciples came and asked him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"
 He answered, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given.......The reason I speak to them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.' Mat 13,10-11. The disciples of Jesus sometimes don't understand the parables when Jesus asked them
Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." (Matt 13:51)
And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables?" (Mark 4:13). With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. (Mark 4:33-34).