C.H. Dodd, a scripture scholar, offered this definition of a parable.  “A metaphor or a simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt of its precise application to tease  it into active thought.”

Sometimes the meaning of a parable is not immediately evident.  In fact, Mark tells us at one point Jesus’ disciples asked him what the parables meant.  Jesus gave a somewhat enigmatic answer: “To you is granted the secret of the kingdom of God, but to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and look , but not perceive; listen and listen, but never understand, to avoid changing their ways and being healed.” (Mark 4: 11-12)

Jesus’ answer was followed by the parable of the sower. Like other parables that parable reveals something about the kingdom of God but reveals it as a mystery.  The mystery is revealed to those open to receive it, who offer fertile ground to the seed that is sown.

According to a helpful analogy parables are like glass.  Some are like windows which provide a particular perspective on reality. Others are like a mirror in which the hearer  is challenged to see a reflection of one’s self.

Examples of the first type of parable are those likening the kingdom of God to a hidden treasure or a pearl of great value.  (Mt. 13: 44-46)   Those parables invite us to see the kingdom of God as something of such great value as to be worth giving up everything one owns to possess it.

Parables offering a reflection of one’s self include that of the unforgiving debtor.  (Mt. 18: 23-35)
and that of the Pharisee and the Tax collector. (Lk. 18: 9-14)
The first challenges us to see to what extent we practice forgiveness and to understand that if we fail to be forgiving we render ourselves incapable of receiving forgiveness.

The second parable of invites us to reflect on the extent to which our prayer is humble and authentic and not self-serving.

In reflecting on those latter parables we need to be aware that it is difficult to be objective about ourselves and our behavior.
We can be blind to our faults.
As the Psalmist wrote: “But who can detect his own failings?  Wash away my hidden faults.” (Ps.19:12)

We would do well to echo the prayer of the blind man of Jericho.  “Lord, that I may see!”
We need to see ourselves as we truly are in the sight of God.