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Once Upon a Time …

What narrative would you write about yourself?

Once upon a time…we were born. Much has happened in our lives since then. so much in fact that we’re rarely aware of all that has happened and how it has affected us. We all have a “story” (life history) made up of many stories or narratives. Throughout life we create narratives out of the events that happen to us or the events that we observe. We learn the components of a story either in direct contact with people, places and situations or by observing others. We then interpret the events that happen to us or that we observe with the information, intelligence and insight that we have at the time. Sometimes when we were young, we believed what others told us because we were unable to verify the validity of the narrative given to us.

The longer we believe in a narrative, the more they define us: our identity, thinking and behavior. Narratives can be either helpful and life giving or destructive and life disabling. We make our life choices by the narratives we believe and which modulate our behavior, thus often reinforcing the narrative.

Narratives exist everywhere: in our families, schools, occupations, places of businesses, social clubs and organizations, churches, communities, states, countries. We are often driven by our internalized narratives without even knowing it. We just “do what we do” because it’s a part of who we’ve been and who we think we are.

Difficulties sometimes occur when our narratives become challenged. Changing part of or all of a narrative can be extremely disturbing when we’ve lived our lives by them for extended periods of time. This is why adolescence is so difficult. The narratives believed in childhood make way for a life that is more complex than we once thought. Education after high school can also be even more challenging as all are narratives can be challenged by other narratives and information. The key here however is discerning if the information challenging our narratives is reliable and valid. Much suffering is created (look around you) by narratives grounded in unreliable and invalid, incomplete information. Trouble can come when we cling to our narrative out of fear without examining it.

As a priest, one of my responsibilities is to support people whose narratives have been shaped by teachings or events that have been interpreted with a lack of valid and reliable information. If someone shamed us when we were younger, do we accept their perceptions as the authority to determine that our worth is compromised? On what authority does this narrative stand? As I said above, there are many narratives from which to choose. Are the authorities behind the narratives valid and reliable? In this case, no. By what authority does this person have the power to judge and condemn? By his or her say so? Unfortunately there is a phenomenon called religious abuse. One of our tasks as people of faith is to challenge this and support their healing.

What narratives are worth believing in–worth betting our life on? Which narratives are most grounded in reality–that are reliable and verifiable? There is one narrative for me that rises above all narratives and which is subject to none. This is the narrative of “I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord. This narrative permeates and transforms every nook and cranny of my life. The resurrection is a living, breathing, heart-beating moment to moment reality breathing on all of us, all of the time. This resurrection peels of the false narrative of shame and enables us to love more as God loves. Resurrection manifests into the narrative of Jesus’ “way” of life in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.

What are the narratives of your life? Where did they come from? Are they reliable and valid in the light of the Resurrection? The process of allowing our narratives to be transformed by the Resurrection narrative is called, sanctification. God’s love transforms us to love as God loves. There’s freedom in this.

The Resurrection Narrative is not just a happy ending, but a real life in the here and now.

Peace,

Fr. Mark