Stories unearth universally human experiences
Aristotle observed 2300 years ago that when storytelling goes bad or when we cease to tell stories, the result is moral decadence.
Good story means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. Stories unearth universally human experiences. That’s why we find them so interesting. We easily relate to other peoples experiences.
Stories let us discover a world we do not know. Once we are inside that alien world, we find ourselves, our identity. When we enter into a novel or go to a movie, we do not wish to escape life but to find life.
Jesus was always speaking in parables, according to the gospel of Mark. His preferred way of storytelling was the use of parables. Parables are an extremely complex and sophisticated mode of communication.
Parables are most often brief sayings or stories that raise more questions than they answer. They take familiar items and characters and situations, and tell us something about them that, usually, turns our customary way of thinking on its head.
In the very earliest stories about Jesus, parables go unexplained. Jesus simply floats them out there, to rise or to fall on ears that are, or are not, able to hear and comprehend. We wish it weren’t so. We wish we could understand each and every one with absolute clarity. We want them to make sense.
We are not alone in that. The gospel writers are just as frustrated with Jesus’ parables as we are! They bend over backwards to provide us with interpretations, to minimize the confusion, and to give us those neat little life-lessons we are craving.
Jesus wants us to transpose his parables, teaching, and stories from words on a page to a way of living.
Your mission is to make Jesus known, to point the way to Jesus, to sing of his love and mercy and redemptive work in the world. You are to make every effort to bring the gospel story to those people you encounter in your daily lives.
Mark has written down the events of the Gospel accurately, in an orderly sequence. Therefore, the receiver of the Gospel must show the same attention and diligence in reading and hearing the Gospel as Mark was engaged in writing it.
The fulfillment of the Gospel in our world depends on your hearing it attentively, listening to it lovingly, and responding to it faithfully. God’s inspiration does not come to those who sit with folded hands and lazy minds and only wait, but to those who think and seek and search. The word of God is given, but it is given to those who search for it. And ironically, the fulfillment in our hearing also involves our seeing. To witness this promised fulfillment, we have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. As we reverently listen to the words of Jesus, our eyes will be open to the resurrected power of Jesus Christ in our midst.
That means you don’t leave the gospel behind when you depart from the front or side doors after Mass. You take it with you. It means you reflect on it every day of the week, apply it to your own life, make the stories your own, to think-seek-search so that that you can share God with the world, a world that badly needs changing.
We have war, crime, drug use, and a high rate of failed marriages. Our churches are not filled to capacity. People search for the meaning of life in sensual pleasures, in scholastic and professional achievement, in worldly friendships, and in chasing after the approval of others.
Day after day we seek an answer to the ageless question Aristotle posed in Ethics: How should a human being lead his life? What is the meaning of life? But the answers elude us.
Jesus taught us that the meaning of life is in the word. He also taught us that a good story is something worth telling that the world wants and needs to hear, particularly stories of God at work in history and in your everyday lives. Finally, he taught you that these stories can’t go untold. Our society depends on it.