2. The story of Jesus manifests
the identity of the Church among
the poor, cultures and religions of Asia
Just as a story reveals personal identity, a story of faith in Jesus reveals also the identity of the narrator as a believer. A witness who tells hislher story of
encountering Jesus cannot and should not hide hislher identity as a disciple of the Savior. But just as a web of relationships with people, culture, and societal currents form a personal story or identity, so is
Christian storytelling in Asia to be done in relationship with others. The Christian identity and story in Asia is always with and not apart from those of other cultures and religions. The story of Jesus is to be
told by Asian Christians who are with and among the poor, the diverse cultures and the various religions of Asia that partly determine their identities and stories as Asians. This reality of Asia has prompted
Jonathan Yun-Ka Tan to propose that missio ad (towards) gentes should be understood now according to the new paradigm of missio inter (among or with) gentes. 15 But I hold that missio ad gentes should not be eliminated but should rather be done inter gentes. There can never be a genuine mission towards people without it being at the same time mission with people. And genuine mission with people encourages mission towards people. With and among the poor, cultures and religions, Asian Christians are Asian.
To and for the poor, cultures and religions, Asian Christians are Christian. The blending of these stories, I believe, can enrich the numerous reflections of the FABC on mission as dialogue with the poor,
cultures and religions of Asia. 16
3. The Church keeps the memory
of Jesus dynamicaUy alive .
Among and for other Asians, the Church tells the story of Jesus in the mode of keeping the memory of Jesus alive. Keeping the memory of Jesus does not mean locking it
up in some untouchable realm of existence. It is kept when re-appropriated and shared. Trusting in the Holy Spirit and faithful to the memory guaranteed in the Tradition of the Universal Church, the Church in Asia
should have the courage to rediscover new ways of telling the story of Jesus, retrieving its vitality and freeing its potentials for the renewal of the Asian realities.
The story of Jesus, when guarded as a museum piece, fails to be life giving. In Ecclesia in Asia (EA 19-20, 22) Pope John Paul II poses the challenge of finding the pedagogy that would make the story of Jesus closer to Asian sensibilities, especially to theologians. He is confident that the same story could be told in new perspectives and in the light of new circumstances.
4. The Story of Jesus provides meaning
to the Church's symbols of faith
We said that stories contain the meaning of the spirituality, ethics and convictions embraced by a person. It can happen that the Church can be so identified with some ?standardized? or stereotyped symbols of doctrine, ethic and worship that the story that gives impetus to them is forgotten. Then the symbols themselves lose their power to touch people. The symbols of faith must be rooted back to the foundational story of Jesus. For example the breaking of bread at the Eucharist should be seen in many stories of sharing, caring and communion, without which the ritual is deprived of significance. A bishop's ring should spring from a living story of service to the community, without which the ring is reduced to a piece of jewelry. A priest's symbolism as Jesus' presence should spring from a living story of availability to people, without which the priesthood becomes a status rather than a vocation. The symbols of faith must be traceable to the foundational story of Jesus. A return to the story of Jesus would also enable the Church in Asia to correct the impressions of foreiguness attached to its doctrine, rituals and symbols (EA 20). Detached from the originating story of Jesus, the symbols of the Church might tell of a story foreign to Jesus Himself.
5. The Story of Jesus generates the Church
Stories also form a community, as we have already stated. In common experience and memory communities find cohesion and common value. The common memory of the story of
Jesus generated by the Holy Spirit should be the fundamental source of unity and identity in faith of the Church in Asia. The Scriptures, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the doctrines, the rituals and the
whole Tradition are ways of constantly telling the story of Jesus so as to keep His memory the core of the Christian community. But this sense of community is not an excuse to isolate the Church so that it could
preserve its identity. The story of Jesus that makes it a Christian community is the same story that the whole community must share. In the paradigm of storytelling, the Church loses its identity if it fails to tell
the story that is its very identity. ?For whoever would preserve his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it?, Jesus says (Mk 8:3536). It has been the conviction of the FABC that it is the whole Church that is called to mission.17 The local Churches need to discern and develop the many gifts inspired by the Holy Spirit so that they could contribute to the telling of Jesus' story. The whole Church, the fruit of the story of Jesus, becomes its narrator.
6. A listening Church tells the Story of Jesus
Stories find their completion in the listener. But stories that are imposed are not listened to. The Church in Asia must trust in the vitality of the story it offers,
without any thought of forcing it on others. It is already a beautiful story that will surely touch those who have even a bit of opeuness. Pope John Paul II tells us in Ecclesia in Asia that we share the
gift of Jesus not to proselytize but out of obedience to the Lord and as an act of service to the peoples of Asia (EAs 20). Let the story speak and touch. Let the Holy Spirit open the hearts and memories of the
listeners and invite them to transformation. The multitudes of poor peoples of Asia can find compassion and hope in Jesus' story. The cultures of Asia will resonate with the disturbing challenge to true freedom in
Jesus' story. The various religions of Asia will marvel at the respect and appreciation towards those seeking God and genuine holiness in Jesus' story. The Church in Asia is called to humbly allow the Spirit to
touch its listeners. As a storyteller of the Holy Spirit, the Church in Asia is to enter the worlds and languages of its listeners and from within them to tell Jesus' story just like at Pentecost.18 But that means the Church in Asia must be a good listener to the Spirit and to the poor, cultures and religions if it is to speak meaningfully at all. A storytelling Church must be a listening Church.19
7. The Church tells the Story of Jesus
in a multiplicity of ways
Stories can be told in a variety of ways. So can the story of Jesus. The Church in Asia, with its rich heritage of storytelling acquired from Asian homes,
neighborhoods, religions and traditional wisdoms, can be creative in telling the story of Jesus. The witness of a holy, ethical and upright life is still the best story about Jesus in Asia.20 The lives of holy men and women and martyrs show how the story of Jesus is inscribed in persons and communities.21 Men and women who have dedicated themselves to service of neighbor, like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, are living stories that Asian peoples love to hear. Defense of the poor, work for justice, promotion of life, caring for the sick, educating children and the youth, peacemaking, alleviation of foreign debt and stewardship of creation are some ways of retelling Jesus' story in Asia today.22 But the Church must also be ready to accept the Holy Spirit's surprising ways of retelling the story of Jesus.
8. The Church is the voice of suppressed stories
It is a scandal that suppression of stories is a daily occurrence in many parts of Asia. The poor, the girl-child, women, refugees, migrants, the minorities, the
indigenous peoples, the victims of different types of domestic, political, ethnic violence and the environment are but a few of those whose stories are suppressed. Many are afraid of the stories they will tell. Or
are they afraid to hear the truth and its demands? The Church tells the story of Jesus whose words often fell on deaf ears and who was executed so that he could be prevented from telling His story. So in Asia the
Church pays tribute to Him by allowing itself to be the storyteller of the voiceless so that Jesus' voice may be heard in their suppressed stories.
Mission as telling of the story of Jesus is already taking place in Asia. We celebrate the many Storytellers of the Holy Spirit whose stories, though hidden, have
generated new stories in the lives of many Asian brothers and sisters.
I close by turning to Jesus, the Logos or Story of God and master storyteller of the Reign of God. Let us behold Him. Let us listen to Him. Let us learn from Him. Let
us open ourselves to His story and His storytelling. His story is about the Abba He has experienced and the fullness of life Abba offers. His life and identity were rooted in this constant union with Abba. Yet he
lived like an ordinary Jew, an ordinary Asian, with family, friends, women, children, foreigners, temple officials, the teachers of the law, the poor, the sick, the friendless, the sinners and enemies. They were all
part of who He was. He gathered a community, a new family of those who would listen to God's word and act on it. He told them stories of Abba and life in Abba. He used their language. His parables were simple yet
disarming. He told them about Abba through his meals, healing, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and critique of false religiosity. His story leads him to a supper where he was food and where he washed the feet of his
friends. Nothing could stop him from telling his story, even on the cross. His humiliating death should have been the end of His story. But Abba had something more to say, ?My
Son - He is truly risen?. Pouring his gift of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, Jesus entrusts His story to us. I hear Him saying, ?Listen to my story. Go and tell my
story again and again where it all began - in my home, in my beloved Asia!?.
I Second Vatican Council, Ad Gentes, 6.
2 ct. JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Missio, 41.
3 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia in Asia, 10.
4 An example among many is COOK M. L., Christology as Narrative Quest (Collegeville, MN: 1997).
5 Cf. WOODS R., <<Good News: The Story Teller as Evangelist>>, New
Blac/ifriars 81 (2000): 206.
6 Ibid., p. 205.
7 Cf. BAYUK R., <<Preaching and the Imagination>>, Bible TodtJy 38 (2000): 289, 292.
8 Cf. COOK M. L., p. 31.
9 Cf. FRANCISCO 1. M. c., <<The Mediating Role of Narrative in Inter Religious
Dialogue: Implications and Illustrations from the Philippine Context>>, East Asian Pastoral Review 41 (2004): 164.
IO Cf. BAYUK R., p. 289.
11 Ibid., p. 290.
12 COOK M. L., p. 39.
13 See the following works of AMALADOSS M .• <<Images of Jesus in India>>,
East Asian Pastoral Review 31 (1994): 6-20 and <<”Who Do You Say that I Am?” Speaking of Jesus in India TodtJy>>, EastAsian Pastoral Review 34 (1997): 211-224.
14 PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41.
15 YUN-KA TAN J., Missia Inter Gentes: TowaTris a New Paradigm in the Missian Theology of
the FABC, FABC Papers No. 109.
16 The fundamenIal document is FABC 1 (1974), <<Evangelization in Modem Day
Asia>>, especially n. 12,14, 20, RosaJes G. and Arevalo C. G. editors, For All the Peoples of Asia, Volume I (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1997), pp. 11-25. Many plenary assemblies and
instiIutes of the FABC are further elucidations of the basic insight of FABC I in changing circumstances.
17 See BIMA III (Third Bishops' Institute for Missionary Apostolate, 1982), n. 5, Ibid. p. 104.
18 Cf. BIRA IV/12, (Twelfth Bishops' InstiIute for Interreligious Affairs on the Theology of Dialogue, 1991) n. 42-47, Ibid., p.332
19 Cf. BIRA I (First Bishops' InstiIute for Interreligious Affairs, 1979), n. ll-14, Ibid., p. 111.
20 Cf. BIMA III (Third Bishops' Institute for Missionary Apostolate, 1982) n. I0, Ibid., p. 105.
21 Cf. FRANCISCO J. M. C., p. 167.
22 Ct. EA n. 33-41.