The charismatic prayer group that I attended before the pandemic would occasionally run an eight-week Life in the Spirit seminar for the parish at large. Most of the meetings’ weekly format consisted of music and singing, silent prayer, a teaching, and a personal witness talk. I always especially enjoyed the witness talks—but then, who does not enjoy a personal story to which we might be able to relate or with which we can empathize?
When my daughter was little, I would read storybooks to her almost every night. She would bring me one book after another after another until I would almost lose my voice. Most of those short stories would teach a lesson about friendship or coping or solving problems.
It is no wonder that Jesus would use parables to teach his followers. He used everyday circumstances, familiar situations, and common objects in brief stories to convey important truths. Although some disciples may have found it challenging or impossible to understand the meanings behind the narratives, those who were open and willing were gifted with ways of understanding how God thinks. Thank you, Jesus! We know we have so very much to learn and absorb about God’s ways; for we read in the prophecy of Isaiah (55:8-9),
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Whether Jesus was talking about lost sheep, the Good Samaritan, laborers in the vineyard, a pearl of great price, or a sower and where his seeds landed, Jesus wanted his disciples to assess their priorities and learn about forgiveness, material versus spiritual values, and the need to seek eternal life with God, who loves us so deeply.
Besides the good news we can learn from the parables, we can also copy Jesus’ way of telling stories that teach and develop a method of gently sharing our own God experiences with others. There is a measure of satisfaction for the listeners who come to their own logical conclusions and personal judgements as they hear or read the details, step by step, until they get to the story’s end. Stories with which we can empathize are stories we might, in turn, easily remember and then share with others.
Creating pictures for the imagination can open up many good possibilities. If there is a chance to inject a little humor into a story, I often find that appealing as well. Some preachers start their homilies or with a carefully planned funny story. I, myself, can think of instances when I thought God, himself, might be chuckling. I bet you can too!
We carefully read the many parables Jesus gave us and encourage others to do so. In Matthew’s Gospel, (13:16-17), we read,
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
The scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.