The Monk and the Scorpion

There was once a monk meditating beside a stream. He was finishing his prayers when he noticed a scorpion trapped on a rock in the middle of the stream as the waters were steadily rising, threatening to drown the creature. Moved with compassion, the monk waded into the stream and tried to rescue the scorpion. Each time he picked up the scorpion, it stung the monk and he dropped it back in the rock. Another monk, passing by, witnessed the exchange and called out to him, “you fool! Do you not know it is the scorpion's nature to sting?”

“Yes!”, replied the monk, “but it is my nature to save!”

This Buddhist parable has a profoundly Christian message. In Christ we have been shown God's nature is to save. He will keep picking us up and picking us up no matter how many times we sting Him. God does not walk away from His creation. As disciples, we are called to take on the nature of Christ, loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, giving to anyone who asks of us, forgiving 7 times 7 times, and taking up our cross. Like the monk, we can become weary of being stung. Consider the two inevitable endings of this parable… Eventually the waters rise and the scorpions last sting results in its being drowned, as it falls into the flowing waters where his rock used to be. The monk walks away satisfied that it did everything in its power to save a creature who simply would not be saved… OR… maybe the seventh time, the scorpion overcomes its nature and allows itself to be rescued. This hope is what makes the nature of the monk stronger than the nature of the scorpion.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

 

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The Wolf of Gubbio

imageWhile St. Francis of Assisi was staying with his fellow brothers in a small town called Gubbio, a wolf began attacking animals outside of the town gate. The men of the city tried to put the wolf down but the more they attacked him, the more ferocious he became. Within weeks, he had begun outright attacking humans. By the end of the month, the city was under siege. No one was allowed to leave town for fear the wolf would attack and kill them.

One evening, after his prayers, Francis went out to meet the wolf, against the townspeople’s wishes. When the wolf leapt at him, Francis made the sign of the cross and the wolf suddenly became docile. Francis spent a great deal of time preaching to the wolf, explaining to him the gospel and what it meant to be a Christian. Finally, he asked the wolf if he would like to be a Christian and the wolf put his paw in Francis’ hand.

Francis entered the city, as the wolf trotted peacefully behind. Then he announced to the crowd, “People of Gubbio, this wolf has received pardon for his sins from our Lord and now seeks our pardon as well. It is his hunger that drives him to attack you, so I beg of you to take care of him and love him as your brother in Christ.”

From that day forward, the wolf was a friend to all in Gubbio. He stood watch at the gate to protect his brothers who kept him happy and fed.

In this wonderful legend, Francis sees the good in a creature most see to be an unlovable beast and actively works to bring about peace through redemption. Sometimes violence is the simplest answer to a problem but the simplest answer is not always the best answer. It is not always possible to bring about peace but Christ does teach that peace should be our first inclination and he does promise that those who make peace will be blessed on the Kingdom of God.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Hermit and the Samurai

imageTheir lived on a distant mountain an old hermit who spent day and night meditating. He was famous for his deep insight and wisdom. It was said that he would answer any question for a truly honorable traveler seeking spiritual guidance. One day, a noble Samurai approached him as he was in a state of deep contemplation. The Samurai had travelled for weeks, making the arduous trek up the top of the mountain to seek the hermit’s wisdom.

Not looking up at him, the hermit asked, “What is your question?”

The Samurai replied, “I have come, O wise one, to ask you the difference between heaven and hell.”

The hermit, still not looking up at the Samurai, began to berate him, saying, “Why should I answer your idiotic questions, you dishonorable pig? You come to me with hands stained with the blood of the innocent and expect to attain wisdom? Away from me, you foolish butcher!”

Overcome with rage, the Samurai lifted his sword to strike the old hermit dead!

Suddenly, looking up at the Samurai with a serene gaze, the hermit told him, “That is Hell.”

Realizing what had happened the Samurai dropped his sword, sank to his knees, and, through his tears, begged the hermit’s forgiveness.

“This”, whispered the Hermit, “is Heaven.”

The difference between Heaven and Hell is found in the human heart. In the Sermon on the amount, Jesus teaches, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22-23) Jesus makes it clear that when we let our anger rule us, we are playing with fire!

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

 

Check out this parable’s original source here.

 

A King’s Pardon

frederickopenerpg1Once Frederick the Great of Prussia was touring one of his country’s largest prison facilities. Word  had quickly spread among the prisoners that the king was in the building and their excitement grew at the prospect of receiving a king’s pardon. As King Frederick passed each of the cells the prisoner would call out to him pleading their case. They yelled things like, “I’m innocent!”, “I was framed”, or “Give me justice!”.

Occasionally he would stop and listen to a prisoner’s account of how he had landed in the prison despite his innocence of the crime he’d been charged with and then, unmoved, continue on. Finally, King Frederick passed one particular cell and it was completely silent. His curiosity was aroused. In the back of the cell, in a dark shadow, a man sat on a bench looking down at the floor. The king called out to him, “Sir, aren’t you going to plead your case to me as well?”

The man, paused for a moment, looked up at him, and said, “No, your highness, I’m guilty of everything they said I did. I’m right where I belong.”

King Frederick immediately turned to the guards and cried, “Free this guilty man at once, before he corrupts all the innocents!”

I’m not sure how historically grounded this anecdote is but it serves as a powerful parable about the freeing power of confession. We live in an age that teaches that guilt is unhealthy and that we need to learn to be OK with ourselves. The problem is that we cannot find true freedom if we are only in the business of guilt management. If we delude ourselves into thinking we are merely the product of our social environment or forced into our actions by a series of incidents beyond our control, we never truly come face to face with our true sinfulness and never experience the redemption and liberation that comes from God’s grace. The scripture says if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them, but until we look the king in the eye and tell him we’re guilty as charged, we cannot receive His pardon. St. Augustine said it best: “Assume nothing; one thief was saved. Presume nothing; one thief was damned.”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…