THERE WAS ONCE an old monastery tucked away in the middle of a forest. For many years people would make a significant effort required to seek out this monastery. The peaceful spirit of the place was healing for the soul.
In recent years, however, fewer and fewer people were making their way to the monastery. The monks had grown jealous and petty in their relationships with one another, and this animosity began to be felt by those who visited.
The abbot of the monastery was distressed by what was happening, and poured out his heart to a wise old Jewish rabbi who came for a week of solitude and prayer in a nearby cottage in the woods. Having heard the abbot’s tale of woe, he asked if he could offer a suggestion. “Please do” responded the abbot. “Anything you can offer.”
The rabbi said that he had received a vision while the abbot was pouring out his heart, and the vision was this: “The Messiah is among you.”
The abbot was astounded. Someone among his own community was the Messiah! Who could it be? He knew it wasn’t him, but who? He hastened back to the monastery and shared the news with his fellow monks.
The monks grew silent as they looked at each other. Was this one the Messiah? Or was it that one? Or perhaps it was…? From that day on, the mood in the monastery changed. They began to treat each other with extraordinary respect. Jacob and Johannes started speaking to each other again, neither wanting to be guilty of slighting the Messiah. Paolo and Matthias left behind their frosty anger and sought out each other’s forgiveness. The monks began looking for little ways of serving each other, opportunities to assist, seeking healing and forgiveness where offense had been given.
One traveller, then another began to find their way to the monastery. Word soon spread about the remarkable new spirit of the place. People found themselves renewed and transformed. They sensed a new spirit, the aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the old monks, and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the abbey. All because those monks knew the Messiah was among them.
THE PROMISE OF the Messiah is “to bring Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all People.”
This is not a peace imposed on others, but a growing realization that ‘peace’ is much more than a cessation of hostilities against one another. Peace is the humility to realize everyone has something to offer, something helpful for others to help and honour them, building up their mutual life together.
We are fast approaching another Christmas season, a perfect time to reflect on its true message. The Messiah has promised, “We will come and make our home with you.”
Christmas is not so much about our ‘presents’ as our ‘presence’- that most precious gift of all, giving something of ourselves.
‘Loving our neighbour’ in this way means making those small but genuine gestures that say, “I’m thinking of you; I care.”