telling THE story

Mar 31, 2024


I was inspired by Pope Francis’ Easter homily yesterday. He tells of the women arriving at the tomb of Jesus “… locked in the feeling that it is all over now, that a stone has been put over the story of Jesus. And the stone is at the centre of their thoughts.”

In his new autobiography published a couple of weeks ago Francis reflects: “Human beings are storytellers because we are engaged in a process of constant growth, discovering ourselves and becoming enriched in the tapestry of the days of our life.”

Too often we lock up the story of Jesus Christ in religious institutions, texts and rituals, overlooking our need to experience him active and present through the everyday lives of believers within and without the church across the centuries and around the world.

The mission, miracles, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus can be experienced today in every moment of our own lives, but too often we chatter about the stones and blockages rather than telling of our personal risen experiences of and encounters with Jesus.

One of the greatest inspirations in my life as a priest has been hearing people tell the stories of their own personal experience of God. While many people feel distant from traditional church structures, their passion for abundant living through the ups and downs of life is the arena for divine action and when people speak of this the world is moved and encouraged.

I have heard people talk of their experience of God in EVERY joy, hope, grief and anxiety of human life.

The depth and power of the comments made by so many on these FFF posts is evidence that Jesus Christ, God-with-us, is alive and present today.

When we tell a story of our personal experience of God we are writing our own gospel.

There are four New Testament Gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, recording the ministry, suffering death and resurrection of Jesus two thousand years ago. We are helped when we think of our own personal lived experience of God  as the fifth gospel, and many others are encouraged and given hope when we witness to our own experience of Jesus.

One of my Sabbatical projects is to collect and publish the personal stories of the experience of God as told by followers and friends of the Food For Faith mission. We all need to hear your story. Together, each sharing one specific experience of God-with-us, we are helped to trust our own experience of God, and to deepen our relationship with Jesus.

I would especially like to hear from people who, while living with great faith, feel distant from the Church. I think of so many I encounter who feel that it is not so much they who have distanced from the institution but the institutional church which has distanced from them.

So here’s my invitation to each of you:

Send me up to 400 words (or as short as a few sentences) telling of one specific experience of God in your own life. The more recent the better. Don’t be afraid to be honest and open. Pray about exactly which experience Jesus might want you to share with others.

You might tell of an answer to prayer, a moment when you knew the presence and action of God, a miracle, a confirmation that you were known and loved by God, an affirmation which you just knew God had prompted. You get the idea.

Please share this invitation with others, inviting them to respond and to tell a story.

You might also know of someone with a story which you feel needs to be shared but perhaps they may not be able to write and send it themselves. You might be able to help them by writing as they tell their story and sending on their behalf.

Don’t be afraid to write about your personal experience of God in any situation, family, relationship, love, miracle, weakness, addiction, grief, abortion, betrayal, growth, money, church, anxiety, maturity, loss, LGBTQ+, divorce, sacraments, friendship, emotions (positive and negative), sexuality, hope, betrayal, joy, celebration…. the list is endless and no story of personal divine experience is off bounds since every situation and circumstance is a potential place of encounter with God – but keep in mind the focus is on your experience of the action of God.

Ideally you will include your name (full name is best, or just first name is fine too) or you are welcome to write anonymously – giving only perhaps a sentence about yourself.

Chat with others about what you might contribute, or what they might send.

Send your contribution to me at before the end of this month (30 April 2024). The format is simple:

Name (full or first or anon)

One sentence about yourself (even if you contribute anonymously this sentence will help readers to feel connected with you)

Your reflection (anywhere from a couple of sentences up to 400 words).

Over these sabbatical months (more info at this link) I will collate your contributions into a book which we might appropriately call The Fifth Gospel.

I am working towards publishing your contributions as a book on the completion of my Sabbatical in September of this year.

You might be already hesitating –  looking forward to reading what others write but thinking you might not write yourself. Perhaps God is nudging you to think again? People will be encouraged by what you share.

Thank you.

I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to send me a note requesting clarification –

United in Christ, together living the fifth gospel.

Signature of Fr John O'Connor



Take an initiative and initiate a cafe table gathering, or join these gatherings:

TODAY Monday 1 April 2024 10.00am (& every Monday). Moku Cafe. Bush Inn Centre, Waimairi Road,  Christchurch. Trish

Thursday 11 April 2024 10.00am  Stumble Inn, 200 Mangorei Road, New Plymouth. Joan

Email me to add another:



  1. I went to Mass yesterday at a huge cathedral in Shanghai with my daughter and 2 of my granddaughters. It was such a wonderful you sometimes feel at Mass, really touched. There were people from every nation all joining in a very uplifting experience. My 16 yr old granddaughter from NZ saw nuns in habits for the first time. I was able to point out to her how many young people were there by themselves obviously involved in the Mass. I felt so privelidged to be there.

    • I am a retired Policeman with 38 years Service. About 20 years ago I went to a First Saturday 9am Mass at the Parish Church. The Altar boy was setting up and brought out the wine, water, hosts etc and placed them on a small table, I had a clear view of same and could see the wine and the water in the glass cruets looked identical. As Mass proceeded I saw the wine take on a golden appearance, when the wine cruet was placed on the Altar during Mass the contents appeared strawberry coloured, then at the elevation of the Wine it appeared very red, and at the time of taking the wine in Communion it was the usual dark red wine normally used at that Church.


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