Archive for January 16th, 2011

“Do you believe everything happens for a reason?  Why or why not?”

There’s a tale told in the Eastern Orthodox Church — I hope I get this right — about a monk who was sent on an errand that would take the entire day.  He completed his errand, and on the way back to his monastery decided to stop for lunch at a fig grove.  As he was eating his simple lunch of bread, dates and figs, a very wealthy man showed up, parked himself under a nearby grove of trees, took out a bag of gold coins, counted it, and lay down for a nap.

The monk was just settling down for a small rest for himself before completing his journey, when he spotted an obviously poor man trudging up the road.  At sight of the rich man, the poor man stopped and, while the monk watched in horror, he untied the bag of gold coins from the rich man’s belt and ran off with them.  The monk was still debating whether or not to wake up the rich man and tell him what had happened when a third man stopped in the grove and took out his own lunch.  He had hardly taken a bite when the rich man woke up, found his bag of coins missing, swore loudly and, without missing a beat, took out his sword and killed the unsuspecting traveler, then mounted his horse and galloped away before the monk had a chance to tell him the truth. 

All the way back to his monastery, the monk grieved over his hesitancy.  By the time he got back, it was too late to wake up his spiritual father and confess his own negligence, so he simply went to bed and fell asleep, still grieving over the injustices he had witnessed.

In the night an angel visited him.  “You are troubled, Brother,” he said.  “Tell me why.”

“I will do that,” said the monk.  “We always talk about God’s great mercy, but tell me:  Where is the mercy when one man is killed for the theft of another?!  What is the reason for the thief to go free, while an innocent man is slain for his crime?!”

“Ah, but you do not know the circumstances,” replied the angel.  “When I tell you the whole tale, you will see that everything happens for a reason, and that our God is indeed a God of mercy.

“You see, the first man, the rich man, obtained that bag of gold coins by fraud.  He moved a property marker so that the field of a poor man was added to his own fields, and then he sold the field of the poor man and profited by it.

“While he slept, the poor man whose field he had stolen and sold came along, recognized the man who had stolen his field, and took the coins as his just due for the property that had been taken from him.–”

“Well and good,” said the monk, “but what about the third man?”

“Ah, the third man.  The third man had been a thief and a brigand in his youth, and had robbed and killed many innocent victims.  When he repented and came to God, he asked one thing only:  That he be allowed to die the same death he had inflicted on so many others, that is, to be killed by the sword.  God heard and accepted his prayer, and that man’s soul is in Paradise because of his genuine repentance and requital.  So when you confess tomorrow, confess your lack of faith in God, not your own hesitancy.  For you see, everything happens for a reason.”

The monk slept in peace, confessed his sin on the morrow, and doubted God no more.

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