Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stories and Spiritual Formation

I love good stories. Good stories stimulate the emotions, challenge the intellect, and satisfy our hunger for the adventure and exploration. Stories teach us spiritual and moral lessons. Many of us have mental models which we adhere to. These act as filters or worldviews. Hence we only see what we want to see. Or in other words we only see what our minds through our mental models allow us to see. Anything that does not fit our mental models, we do not see.

That is why stories are an important means of communication. It cuts through our mental models into our subconscious. Jesus uses parables which are a form of stories. Stories are also used to teach in other religious traditions.

Anthony Mello was a Jesuit and well known spiritual director and retreat director. He died in 1987. Mello used many stories collected from different religious traditions to teach spiritual truths. He had published many books of collections of these stories, often adding his insight after the stories which I have found very valuable. The Song of the Bird is one of my personal favourite. Another must read is Sadbana:A Way to God.
Here is one story from The Song of the Bird

Wheat from Egyptian Tombs

A handful of wheat,

five thousand years old,
was found in the tomb
of one of the kings
of ancient Egypt.
Someone planted the grains
and, to the amazement of all,
the grains came to life

When a person is enlightened his or her words become like seeds, full of life and energy. And they can remain in seed form for centuries until they are sown in a receptive fertile heart.

I used to think the words of scripture were dead and dry. I know now that they are full of energy and life. But it was my heart that was stony and dead, so how could anything grow there?

A very good reflective question. Compare that to Jesus' parable of the sower, seeds and different soil. (Matt. 13:3-9)


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