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There is always some doubt about the exact point of the story, and the result is that the listener or reader wonders why the story is so strange or unsettling??Hey, that’s not supposed to happen that way!? You begin to think more deeply about the meaning of the parable. That is the goal. Parables raise more questions than answers. They help us see beyond the obvious into the deeper meaning that Jesus had in mind. That is why the parables of Jesus continue to fascinate us two thousand years later. —Parables and How Jesus Taught Them: Loyola Press
Every day’s a new day
Fifteen there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live.
—“100 Years” by John Ondrasik, Five for Fighting.
The recent announcement that a national storytellers’ conference had been cancelled due to COVID caught my eye. Being puckish, I reposted it on my Facebook page, with the comment: “Conference cancelled: It’s a long story…”
But, in seriousness, what a loss. Storytelling in corporate settings has become a big business. Colleges are offering storytelling certifications and master’s level degrees. Sharing a “thought bubble” to release others’ bubbles is a skill, but one innate ability is to listen before talking.
I reinforced this in a “welcome video” for incoming first year students in my section of Benedictine College Experience. There will be readings. Lots of readings, but there will be personal exercises in listening, not just hearing, before sharing.
I’ve shared a unique and blessed experience putting this in play as I had never done.
In spring of 2019, I filled in as a lector at our Cathedral on a Sunday, and as it turned out, my assigned reading was Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on “love”. To be sure, couples choose these readings for their weddings, and it is perfectly appropriate. But Paul says so much more. As I approached the ambo, I prayed that I could be blessed to tell Paul’s story. It was not a list of dos and don’ts. Paul describes the emptiness of telling about love, as opposed to listening and responding to God’s call. I zeroed in on two special people preparing for marriage, sharing with them Paul’s admonition, “Love never fails”. The Lord directed me to “tell the story”.
John Martens in 2010 asked readers to name their top twelve parables. The top parable was “The Unmerciful Slave”, where his master forgives the slave’s debt, but the slave was then unmerciful to another pleadings. Number two was “The Prodigal Son”.” The Good Samaritan” was third. Basically, stories of anger, yes, but redemption are Jesus ’favorite topics as he taught groups large and small, and instructed his disciples to do the same. We can present ourselves in our stories as broken but redeemed.
Without going into detail, this is a linchpin of a story I am writing. A young man who has put the loss of someone with whom he was close on his shelf of memories must bring those memories to bear as he must share that story with others. He gets the assist from someone he has met, and with whom he is growing in love. That person helps our young man find the storyteller’s courage while learning, herself, that being part of a story means being part of someone’s being and someone’s heart.
Jesus presented stories we could not only understand but to share. Our personal “baggage” is opened when we re-tell it and, God willing, we are the better in our personal life, and in our life of faith.