...he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.
According to the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus often counteracts popular expectation. Despite the high hopes in the Bethlehem countryside where he was born and in Jerusalem where Simeon and Anna welcomed him, he disappointed the Nazarenes with his preaching. They were so upset they wanted to throw him headfirst off a cliff. In today's gospel, because the people of Jericho expected the Kingdom of God to appear soon, he told them about three businessmen and their absentee employer. Two invested wisely and enjoyed a substantial return. Handing their profits over to the Man, they were handsomely rewarded. The third buried his employer's money in the ground and returned every penny of it, probably in the same worm-eaten pouch. He did not fare so well. What's the connection to Jericho's expectation? Christians wait with eager expectation that divine day when the Lord will return. That "apocalyptic" longing appears in the oldest texts of our New Testament (1&2 Thessalonians), throughout the gospels, and brilliantly in the last book, Revelation. In the two millennia since Jesus' ascension his return has been reinterpreted as a gradual evolution of peace and justice; and as eminent, probably TODAY! with many variations in between. Some have set themselves up as experts in predicting the year, month and day of his return -- only to be repeatedly disappointed. Others have simply dismissed the notion altogether; as they read the fossil record and astronomical occurrences they see no end in sight. If the human race doesn't annihilate itself with nuclear weapons or environmental pollution, it will be fried when the sun supernovas, several millions years from now. The Catholic tradition, remembering all these attempts to decipher a supposedly hidden code in the Bible and scrutinize the inscrutable Mind of God, hews more closely to the teaching of Jesus, "Be ready! You know neither the hour nor the day." The good people of Jericho entertained a natural curiosity when they asked "When will the Kingdom of God appear?" But, like the precise hour of your death, the end of the world is the last thing we humans should know. Saint Francis of Assisi, that "most Catholic of saints," urged his friars to keep it simple, "While we have time, let us do good."