On Telling our Story
(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1Jn.2:1-5; Lk.24:35-48)
Ever since the first cavemen sat around log fires, people have loved stories.
Stories are powerful. They help us understand who we are and where we come from. They help build strong families and communities. They can teach and inspire, and they can heal.
After the Rwandan genocide, many therapists went to Rwanda to help damaged and abused souls. They took with them many new techniques, but it was only old-fashioned storytelling that seemed to heal their wounds. As the Rwandan men and women sat together and told of their sons and daughters and the horrors they endured, healing and forgiveness took place. [i]
Why do stories resonate so deeply? It’s because we’re all made in God’s image. Our heavenly Father is the greatest storyteller of all. Our world is his story; we are his characters. And his Scriptures are filled with legendary tales about famous men and women and God’s remarkable love for us.
Jesus, the Word himself, is certainly a storyteller. He uses parables to reveal things ‘hidden since the creation of the world’ (Mt.13:35). And he clearly understands the power of story to convey profound suffering, love and wisdom.
Our reading from Luke’s Gospel today immediately follows Jesus’ walk to Emmaus. After the two disciples recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they rush back to Jerusalem to tell everyone.
While they’re telling their story, Jesus enters the room and says ‘Peace be with you.’ They’re all stunned; he must be a ghost! But Jesus shows them his wounds, and he explains that his passion, death and resurrection were all part of God’s plan. Everything written about him in the Scriptures, he says, had to be fulfilled.
‘You’re my witnesses,’ Jesus says, ‘you must tell the world.’ We find the same message is in Isaiah 42:8-10 and Acts 1:8. Jesus wants his witnesses to spread the news.
Why? It’s because Jesus’ presence is always a blessing to be shared. The world needs him.
In Luke 12:49, Jesus says, ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth.’ That’s exactly what happens after his resurrection. Christianity spreads like wildfire because of the convincing testimony of his witnesses. His disciples had a story to tell and they told it, even when it was dangerous to do so.
Today, it’s our turn. If Jesus has touched our hearts and lives in some way, we have a responsibility to tell others (1Pet.3:15-16).
How, then, might we do this, especially in this challenging, secular age?
A good way to start is quietly. In subtle ways let others notice that we follow Jesus. Let them see our Christian symbols – the ones we wear and carry, and those we display in our homes. Let them witness us praying and going to Church. Let them know about our Christian values and our happiness because Jesus loves us.
Then, when the time is right, share your story. In your own way and in your own words, let others know about your journey to conversion. How did you discover Jesus? Did he help you through a tough time? Did he answer a prayer? Did you learn a valuable lesson? How does Jesus speak to you? And what difference does he make in your life?
Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic, like St Paul’s journey to Damascus. It might even be simple, like St Therese of Lisieux’s.
But we all have a story to tell. And after sharing your story, leave the results to God. He’ll take care of what follows. As St Teresa of Calcutta used to say, our duty is not to be successful; it’s only to be faithful.
Pope St Paul VI once wrote: ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it’s because they are witnesses.’ [ii]
Today, we are Jesus’ witnesses, and each of us has a story to tell.
Let’s close with a story.
Centuries ago, a rich sultan in Baghdad gave a banquet in honour of his son’s birth. Every guest brought expensive gifts, except a young sage who came empty-handed. He explained to the sultan, ‘Today the young prince will receive many precious gifts, jewels and rare coins. My gift is different. From the time he’s old enough to listen until his manhood, I’ll come to the palace every day and tell him stories of our Arabian heroes. When he becomes our ruler, he’ll be just and honest.
The young sage kept his word. When the prince was at last made sultan, he became famous for his wisdom and honour.
To this day, an inscription on a scroll in Baghdad reads, ‘It was because of the seed sown by the stories.’ [iii]
[ii] Evangelii Nuntiandi n.41 http://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html
[iii] William J Bausch, Touching the Heart. Twenty-Third Publications, New London CT. 2007:8.