Poor simple you. Most of your catechized life, you’ve probably thought that a parable is, in the words used by the late Fr. John Hardon in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, “a short story based on a familiar life experience used to teach a spiritual lesson” by Jesus. Little did you know that “it took a village” of later believers to … turn its meaning so that it “stands for something within the community.” From the most recent homily of Fr. Ken Overberg, S.J., at Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel:

As the parables were remembered and handed on orally and finally written down, the original point may have been lost or at least obscured. The later communities often turned the parable with its one insight into an allegory in which each element stands for something within the community. For example, last week’s gospel of the sower of seeds explained the path, rocks, and thorns. Today’s first parable also gets interpreted (if you read the rest of the passage), using specific points to express Matthew’s concerns for judgment and justice (see pp. 54-58 in Arthur Dewey’s The Word in Time, revised edition).

How helpful of him to cite Art Dewey, a former XU theologian who, as a member of the Jesus Seminar, spent the 90s casting doubt on the divinity of Christ. FWIW, Overberg frequently circulates this “later communities” meme to leave room for his community, a cabal of discredited, dwindling, and dissenting theologians and exegetes, to project their own agendas onto Scripture. From his point of view, if the early Christians could turn a parable, why can’t he?

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