“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Matt 13:9).
Anyone who is following the campaigns and conventions leading up to the 2016 presidential election will know the power of storytelling. This month and in the months to come until November, we will be inundated with images, words, analysis and commentary designed to persuade us that this or that story, personified in this or that candidate, best fits the reality of our nation, our society and ourselves.
The biblical story holds that the universe itself is the result of the story God is telling with words so powerful that they create worlds, shape the primal forces of our physical existence as the context for both God’s design and our freedom to either follow or frustrate the unfolding history of the earth and its inhabitants. Each generation is but a fleeting moment in the long continuum of space the time, but empowered to influence the trajectory of a small but significant player in the universal plan.
Today’s readings tells us about God’s call of the Prophet Jeremiah, whose words will confront and challenge the direction the nation and its leaders are choosing. The words God places in Jeremiah’s mouth will have the force of reality: “Too root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” In Matthew’s gospel, we will hear the many parables of Jesus, powerful stories that invite us to hear and respond to God’s word. Jesus is like the sower who goes out to sow, encountering many levels of readiness and attentiveness. Where the seed finds receptive ground, it will multiply its effects.
The crowds are eager to hear Jesus speak. His stories open their imaginations to a world of fresh possibilities. The joy of the Gospel touches those with ears to hear. God wants to give us abundant life, shared life, an overwhelming harvest of goodness and love. Listen to the story, then become the story, for it is the underlying presence of God at work in history, pouring out gifts that multiply to create new communities of hope, compassion and courage.
We are called upon to choose the story that best describes our vision of the world. Some stories are driven by fear and, telling us to defend ourselves from others, from scarcity and threat in a world of strangers and enemies. Other stories promise success without struggle, safety without sharing, predictability without risk.
Into this maelstrom of storytelling comes a different kind of storyteller and a new story. Let those who have ears to hear listen.