1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Sometimes we need stories to see not just some truth or wisdom, but to see into our very souls.
Stories have a powerful force in life – they are one of the most ancient ways of expressing and handing on meaning and knowledge to others. They have a kind of transfixing power too – as most parents will testify – the power of those simple words "Once upon a time" generally quietens the child (or as adults the child within us) and can transform a child from restlessness or resistance to a state of receptive listening and a surrender to fantasy.
As humanity has evolved we’ve certainly moved from fire side gatherings of the clan to listen to the elders tell us of the past, to printed stories that one could read to one’s self, to illustrated books and their successors – ‘motion pictures’. Now a new generation is entertained by reading or listening on devices like Nintendo and eBooks, but the dynamic remains the same – we are made to listen.
We all need stories – even as adults our nights out to see a film or those at home to watch a DVD or an online streamed film are times we slip back into a child like state of where judgment is suspended, listening is enhanced and for just a moment we willingly re-enter a world of fantasy.
Perhaps that’s the genius of a story – it sneaks under our guard and bypasses our normal sense of judgement and suspicion while travelling straight to the heart and to our emotions.
In the world of Jesus, story was a powerful teaching and preaching medium. He himself is well known for his story telling capacity and today we witness this teaching style of Jesus once more at work to reveal a truth and attempt to influence a heart.
So Jesus tells Simon a story, that unbeknownst to him, is actually one to illustrate his own lack of grace and manners. Simon readily identifies the correct path one should take whist it is disguised as the life experience of another, but in the real world he has failed to see his own inadequacies as a host.
But there is another lesson for Simon if he chooses to listen more deeply. Where Jesus has seen into the heart of the woman and recognised love at work, Simon has only looked upon the externals and seen a sinner. Where Jesus sees only love, Simon only sees a bad reputation. Where Jesus admits a person to a more intimate and loving dependence upon him Simon stays distant and critical.
This is the change called for in Simon. He is invited to move towards a stance that is closer to that of Jesus.
For us, the listeners today to this gospel story, we can take great comfort in the sure knowledge that this is how Jesus looks upon us – he sees within to the levels of intention and desire not to the outer trappings and history of any failure or limitation of ours.
While we are faithful and we try our best, we know we are not always worthy, but if we love we can all confidently wait in hope and longing for Jesus to say to us also "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.