Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
There was a famous monastery which had fallen on very hard times. Formerly its many buildings were filled with young monks, and its huge chapel resounded with the singing of the choir. But now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised God with heavy hearts.
On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a tiny hut. He would come there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: "The rabbi walks in the woods." And, for as long as he was there, the monks would feel sustained by his prayerful presence.
One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and open his heart to him. So, after the morning Eucharist, he set out through the woods. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced like long-lost brothers. Then they stepped back and just stood there, smiling at one another with smiles their faces could hardly contain.
After a while, the rabbi motioned the abbot to enter. In the middle of the room was a wooden table with the Scriptures open on it. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the Book. Then the rabbi began to cry. The abbot could not contain himself. He covered his face with his hands and began to cry, too. For the first time in his life, he cried his heart out. The two men sat there like lost children, filling the hut with their sobs and moistening the wood of the table with their tears.
After the tears had ceased to flow and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. "You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts," he said. "You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again."
The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, "The Messiah is among you." For a while, all was silent. Then the rabbi said, "Now you must go." The abbot left without ever looking back.
The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them that he had received a teaching from the rabbi who walks in the woods, and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, "The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah."
The monks were startled by this saying. "What could it mean?" they asked themselves. "Is brother John the Messiah? No, he's too old and crotchety. Is brother Thomas? No, he's too stubborn and set in his ways. Am I the Messiah? What could this possibly mean?" They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi's teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again.
As time went by, though, something unusual began to happen at the monastery. The monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, wholehearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe, but easy to notice. They lived with one another as brothers who had finally found something. And yet, they prayed over the Scriptures together as those who were still looking for something. Visitors found themselves deeply moved by the genuine caring and sharing that went on among the brothers. Before long, people were again coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of these monks. And young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community.
Let us pray: Almighty God, help us to see Christ in our neighbor. May we BE Christ to our neighbor. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen