Monday, October 28, 2013

What's the Backstory

Dear friends,

Among the recently coined words that people are using is backstory as in  “ Here’s the backstory on this late-breaking news.”

We used to say “background”, but I think backstory is useful in a different way. Background  leaves people with facts but not necessarily with an experience to walk around in.

My friend, Bill Winfield, recently died on a Friday at Strong  Hospital. Two days later, his great-granddaughter was born at Strong. One backstory that allowed Bill’s funeral to have a measure of joy was the realization that God claimed Bill but gave the family new-born life as well.

Backstories of faith are not necessarily seen on the faces of people we meet.  We have to spend time with them. Listen to what emerges as they share their thoughts with us.

Next weekend, we’ll hear the biblical story of Zacchaeus.(Luke 19.1 – 10) Go read it for yourself. Even try reading it outloud. What's his backstory? How was he raised? Why did he become a tax collector? Was he a good one? Was he honest? Did he hear Jesus tell the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? (We heard that one last Luke 18. 9 – 14.) Did he wonder if he was like that tax collector? The  text doesn’t tell us Z’s backstory. That gives us a chance to wonder, create Z’s character, walk with him. And then there was the day that Zacchaeus and Jesus met. Zacchaeus in the tree. Jesus gazing up at him. Did they take each other’s measure? Did they wonder where each had come from, why they were so aware of one another?

Jesus and Zacchaeus. Two stories. Two backstories. One shared moment of grace.

This week, find someone gazing at you. Meet his/her eyes. Respect the richness of that person’s journey. What drives him/her up his own  tree?  Here is our own Zacchaeus whose story and backstory intersects with ours. Be conscious of the connection. Be enriched and humbled.

Blessings on your week,

Joan Sobala, SSJ