I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce things hidden from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 13:35)
The world is, and has been, constantly changing. It is not changing itself, however. Something else is changing it. God, who created the world, is changing the world. So, it isn’t a human process though humans are involved.
This Sunday, July 30th, Holy Church concludes her reading of the parables from St. Matthew in chapter 13 of his Gospel. There is more than one option for what is the key to unlocking the teaching Jesus put into his parables, but I’m choosing the quote at the top of this essay. I choose it because the parables, like anything else that we speak, or which is taught, reveal something, and revealing anything means bringing it out of hiding. We don’t always and only say what is obvious and straightforward. In fact, a notable, and essential, part of human speech is its capacity to unveil the veiled, which is Matthew’s summary statement of why Jesus taught in parables—to “announce things hidden from the foundation of the world.”
Now it is obvious, even if unstated by Matthew, that the statement immediately demands from the reader certain questions: What things? Hidden by whom? Hidden from whom? Why did they hide them?
Those are the questions that Matthew intended us to ask. From the beginning of creation, he says, quoting Psalm 78:2, things have been hidden, they were not open to view, they were not talked about among the people; quite possibly, they were avoided. They were, speaking from an anthropological perspective, taboo. We can hide things beneath a foundation, and a foundation would be a very good hiding place, but the statement, like the parables, are analogical.
What are the possibilities? There is the possibility that we hid them and from ourselves. After all, who makes taboos if it isn’t us? We hide things from ourselves, and they become social conventions, and there is an agreement, always unspoken, that they need to remain unknown. But even though hidden, we know that we know them, and know them deeply, more deeply than if they were merely conscious and openly spoken, and so, since they have been hidden, they can be brought out of hiding. Bringing them out of hiding usually causes quite a stir.
The current hit movie, Sound of Freedom, is a convenient case in point. Didn’t society at large not know that children are being sold into labor and sex slavery? Many people do live oblivious to what is going on, don’t pay attention to news, but it would greatly strain credulity to say that child trafficking was unknown. Most everyone says that they had no idea of the extent of the monstrosity, but, unless someone persists in being willfully ignorant, the veil has been pulled. The only ones who don’t know either don’t want to know or are implicated in the crime; both possibilities are egregiously culpable.
We pretend not to know things and the pretense becomes our reality. We know that they exist, that they had been done in the past, and thus could be done again by us, and the overriding rule is that such things must never for any reason be admitted. Taboos begin as things known. The hiding of them constitutes the foundation of society. Such foundations are approved cover for the darkness in the heart of Man.
The quote is from Psalm 78:2. Although Matthew is quoting a Psalm, he says that it is from a prophet in the preceding verse: All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth . . .. The prophet in question would have to be David, and the Psalms were considered, and by and large still are, to have contained prophecies about Jesus by students and teachers of Sacred Scripture since the early centuries of the Church. It looks like Matthew originated that point of view. Is Psalm 78 a prophecy about the Messiah? In Matthew’s hands it is, and Matthew is right.
It says (verses 1-4, NAB): Attend, my people, to my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable, unfold the puzzling events of the past. What we have heard and know; things our ancestors have recounted to us. We do not keep them from our children; we recount them to the next generation, The praiseworthy deeds of the LORD and his strength, the wonders that he performed.
Matthew changes the perspective but preserves, and makes clearer and more direct, the verses’ meaning. The “praiseworthy deeds of the LORD” have puzzled the people in the past, and now the psalmist is going to clear up, unveil, those deeds of the Lord. The stated purpose of the Psalm and the parables are the same: to make clear what wasn’t.
What was the most “praiseworthy” deed of the Lord? His creation of the human person in His own image. And that is what we have hidden. At first glance, the things hidden sounds like something too awful to look at was hidden at the world’s founding. What has been hidden since the foundation of the world is the true goodness and beauty of naturally good and innocent human beings.
Jesus taught in parables and the teaching “unfolds” something about us and to us. We have hidden things; we do find some topics of discussion distasteful—and sometimes they are—and these are the things that Jesus unveiled. Jesus was an apocalyptic man who wasn’t trying to get us to see the distasteful but the good.
Even Jesus, however, did not just come right out and say them. If he had, would people have believed him? They did then what they do now—we’re not big on change, and less on being changed. We find it hard to believe in our created goodness both because that belief would mean a matching our behavior with that belief, and there are many who's vested, and criminal, interests would be badly compromised. So, we put that revelation, that we are good and innocent creature, right back in hiding where it has been kept for so many generations that no one remembers hiding it.
The parables reveal what we hid in a way that once it is seen, it can’t henceforth be denied. The revelation of the parables gave birth to the largest, and ongoing, cultural and moral change in the history of the world.
If that revelation counters people who don’t want to world to change back to its original goodness, their only option, and one that has been taken, is to get rid of Jesus and thus his parables. First, they killed him, now, since no one can be killed twice, they remove him and his disciples from the public square offering the sop that he was a really wise, even admirable, moral teacher but no more significant than that; although at certain times and in certain places, they remove the Church completely. There are people who say that that is happening here, now, in the United States. He and His Church have been removed from major institutions—the academy, the media, the public schools, arts and entertainment. It won’t work. Even where it has been done violently, as in the early Soviet Union, it didn’t work. China seems to have a more effective approach—put Him under state control. Our own method using the political theory of the separation of Church and State has also been more effective that overt violence. The lesson seems to have been learned—you just can’t kill the guy; he doesn’t stay dead. One can, however, twist him and the change he produces into its contrary.
The parables prior to Matthew’s citation from Psalm 78 were the parable of the sower, the weeds in the field, the mustard seed, and the yeast leavening three measures of wheat flour. These parables are meant to reveal what has been hidden since the foundation of the world. Do they succeed?
Of course, they do. The sower of the weeds is the devil, and the weeds are his children. Why are we afraid of the devil? Because he wants to do us harm, and the harm isn’t only his tempting us to sin, the harm includes physical violence. He would kill us if he could. He can’t, but his children can, and they do. We’re not talking about random acts of violence like the now commonplace mass shootings; or at least not only that. We’re talking about violence as a means to an end, as a major component in a social program. Some might be shocked that such a thing could be possible—Do people really do such things? They not only do such things, but they even have a way of hiding what they have done. Normally, the hiding takes the form of calling it something else, something that is anything but what it really is—murder.
Was the crucifixion of Jesus a murder? Yes. When the state knowingly executes an innocent man, and Pilate did know that Jesus was innocent, which is why he washed his hands, that’s murder. How many innocent people did the State crucify? There’s no way to come up with a number, but the determination of guilt or innocence wasn’t the goal. The program being implemented by violence was total dominance and the preservation of the established sociopolitical order.
We kill babies in this country. Would the state, or the courts, or even the official organs of the Church call it murder. Well, the government and the educational institutions don’t, and they won’t. Sometimes the Church does. Those who have a social order to construct, to found, call it something else; they call it women’s reproductive healthcare. They are trying hard to make that nomenclature stick, and that attempt is what the Gospel of Matthew calls hiding it.
And going back to Sound of Freedom. The film’s producer, Eduardo Verátegui, reported that it took three years to find a studio that would release it. That means that there are studios not open to further public awareness of the reality of child labor and sex trafficking. Doesn’t everyone want to know that millions of children are being trafficked in our world? Not everyone. There are two types of culpability mentioned about above, but it is simply impossible to keep something as evil as child trafficking completely hidden because just about everyone knows that children are innocent.
Keeping the violence done to children as far out of the public eye as possible is really a concealing of their natural goodness which is the naturally eternal goodness of humanity. The event that exposed it was the crucifixion of the Son of God. And that is what the parables reveal. For what do they say?
The parable of the weeds in the field says bluntly that there are evil children of the devil in the world, but there are also in the world the children of the Kingdom. The parable doesn’t say that they know who’s who, but what it does is reveal what had been hidden. There isn’t a depravity that the devil’s children aren’t capable of, and they are certainly capable of murdering for the purpose of founding a world.
The first parable, that of the sower, lists the four possible responses to the proclamation of the Kingdom, which provides a good description of the world for what it really is. The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast say that the Kingdom of God is more certain to be established that the kingdom of the evil one. The parables of the treasure buried in a field and the pearl of great price that the finding the Kingdom in which human goodness and innocence has been restored is more valuable than any other possible human activity.
There are several human activities impossible in God’s Kingdom, but a prominent one is violence. The founding event of the Kingdom of God in our world is the death and burial of Jesus Christ. The devil and his children who wanted Jesus buried and forgotten don’t change scripts, they want all of our current victims also buried and forgotten. But it won’t work, it can’t. Hasn’t everyone noticed that the topics of slavery and the horrific treatment of the Native Americans keep coming up for discussion? As does the Holocaust, and now we are beginning to hear more often about the Soviet atrocities like the Gulag and the forced starvation of millions in the Ukraine, and even the atrocities of the Chinese Communist Party, though that not as much since their money controls a good portion of the corporate world and Hollywood and Washington.
We may in our outrage and our need to feel righteous say that we will never allow that to happen again. Feels good to say it and mean it. It just happens not to be true. We will do it again, or someone will do it again. And they will be believed because being good doesn’t seem like a good worth pursuing. The revelation of the parables is that the violence hidden since the foundation of the world is no longer hidden. Now there are two kingdoms, one with the founding event of a buried victim, used for the purpose of acquiring power and control, the other with the founding event of the death and burial of the one who didn’t stay dead and who can’t be controlled.
The world isn’t exactly changing, or being changed, it is being replaced, though all that is good will be preserved. No human agent of change, try as they might, will stop what is happening any more than anyone could stop a planted mustard seed from yielding a mustard bush, or yeast from leavening dough. The timing of the end is unknown, but it is certain. The devil’s children will sow weeds, there are bad fish swimming in the sea, and both will be thrown into the wailing and grinding of teeth.