Do Smartphones Promote Dumb Disciples? Mark 4: 26-34

by Catholic Bible Studies And Reflections, World's View

Groceries such as Whole Foods online are instantaneous. Gardens are not. Gardens are progressive. We scatter seeds and as we sleep they sprout and grow. Groceries market the obvious by deploying dye or colored lights to make produce more noticeable. Gardens do not. Most of us, as in Jesus’ day, know not how the land yields its fruit. Finally, groceries are predictable because they are transactional. One-click carrots are priced and shipped on schedule. However, a garden is not transactional, and therefore, more precarious than predictable.

A garden is not transactional because it is relational or personal. The gardener, the climate, the soil, the seed even the insects all cooperate in a complex, personal but precarious process we hope finally results in “first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear”.  

Like gardens, parables are not instantaneously self-evident either, but progressively self-disclosing. Like gardens, parables are not obvious, but open-ended precisely because they are personal rather than transactional. Jesus’ parables were always personal, never transactional. For Jesus’ parables disclose the Kingdom of God, the hearer must mutually, personally self- disclose to the author of His parables. And because self-disclosure always makes one vulnerable, parables place Jesus in precarious rather than predictable situations.  

So Jesus’ parables like gardens invite us into a relationship that is progressive, personal, but precarious or vulnerable. Jesus relates to us by parable because He wants us to relate to him like a parable; progressively, personally, vulnerably in a word, like disciples. That is why these verses conclude that Jesus only fully discloses His parables to disciples.

Because disciples by definition are disciplined. Discipline is needed to scatter the seed of discernment without demanding instantaneous results, that is, to persevere as God’s will discloses progressively. Discipline is needed to believe what we cannot see, that is, to believe that God’s personal will for us is unfolding through life’s ambiguity though we know not how any more than we know how the earth yields its fruit. And discipline is needed because life in Christ makes us as vulnerable as that precarious first, green blade in a garden.  

We’ll find instant, obvious, predictable produce in a grocery, but not a garden. Just as we’ll find instant, obvious, predictable answers in an information bubble, but not a parable. Information bubbles are for fanatics, not disciples. Information bubbles reinforce their own instant, obvious, predictable answers as infallible and demonize others as immoral. Such information bubbles used to be called Pharisees or Sadducees; today conservative or liberal, etc. But as in the days of Jesus, information bubbles resist anything new—even the good news. That is because as the documentary The Social Dilemma explains, information bubbles are addictive; only two industries refer to their clients as users: Social Networks and Drug Lords.  

As drugs feed addicts, information bubbles feed fanatics, not disciples. Disciples eat bread and wine from gardens along with beloved wisdom from parables. Disciples persevere as God’s will discloses progressively; believe amid life’s ambiguity; and are vulnerable along with that precarious first, green blade on the Tree of Life called Christ.  

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