Jesus spoke to them only parables” (Matt 13:34).
One common characteristic of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom is that in a process involving human doing (seeking, planting, finding, fishing), there is always a gift, an element beyond human control. A tiny mustard seed is planted in the soil, but the germination is the result of a mysterious potency in the seed itself. A woman mixes yeast into a batch of dough, but the enzyme then must take over.
This same characteristic is true of many of Jesus’ miracles. People must seek him out, cry out his name, reach through the bustling crowd to touch his cloak; a boy shares the five barely loaves and two fish that feed the five thousand; servants fill the jars with water at Cana.
The most effective help programs are self-help strategies; What can you bring to this solution? What is your investment here? Let’s do this together. Collaboration builds community, enables people to go beyond their own wants and needs to an awareness of the common good. Community is the real miracle that reveals God’s presence. We only know it after the fact. Something greater than the sum of the parts has occurred here. It began with us, needed our small efforts, but then the magic happened, the green shoot appeared, the dough rose in the pan, fragrant and alive, giving us bread but also the surpassing mystery of joy.