Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of another blog post I’d written some years ago. First published March 27, 2013, it is presented below.
I found the following story on Facebook recently.
One day Buddha was walking through
a village. A very angry and rude young
man came up to him and began
“You have no right to be teaching
others!!!” he shouted.
“You are as stupid as everyone else.
You are nothing but a fake!!”
Buddha was not upset by these insults.
He just smiled. The man insulted him
again and again but the only reaction
he could get back from the Buddha
smile and silence. Finally he stomped
his feet and left cursing.
The disciples were feeling angry and
one of the them couldn’t keep quiet
and asked the Buddha, “Why didn’t you
reply to the rude man?”
The Buddha replied, “If someone
offers you a gift, and you refuse to
accept it, to whom does the gift
“Of course to the person who brought
the gift,” replied the disciple. “That is
correct,” smiled the Buddha.
I liked the story, so I “Facebook-liked” it and shared it. Though I’m Catholic rather than Buddhist, I felt this story was very much in keeping with my own ideals. Just change the character of the Buddha and it might as easily be a story out of the Gospels, or from the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.
But, as any writer can tell you, changing a character in a story ends up changing the story. Once I put St. Francis in the Buddha’s role I came to realize how a Christian — a true follower of Christ in the way that few besides Francis have ever managed — would have handled the situation differently.
Francis would have upped the ante. He wouldn’t have simply refused to accept the “gift” of Hate, but would have offered the gift of Love in exchange. Which, in turn, got me thinking about an interesting point of Catholic theology. We are told that all religions, all traditions, point the way toward God. But it is only in Christ that we find the fullness of Truth. The Buddha’s way in this story is good and wise, a challenge that most of us would not be up to. That’s fine, as far as it goes. But Christ would have us take it that one step further.
A young man approached Christ and asked, “What must I do to gain eternal life?”
In reply, Jesus turned the question back to him: “Why do you ask me? Do you not know the commandments?”
“I do,” the young man insisted. “And I try to live them every day!”
And Jesus looked at him with love. “Then only one thing remains,” He said. “If you would be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Then come follow me.”
In the Biblical version, the young man goes away sad because he has many possessions and is not ready to part with them. In the Franciscan version, Francis and his followers rejoice that their many possessions allow them to give generously to the poor.
A religion, any religion, is ultimately made up of the stories we tell ourelves. Stories which inspire, guide, help us make sense of the world we live in. Any story that pushes me or challenges me to improvement is a good story. Any religion that accepts such a story is a beneficial and important part of civilization.
Which is a large part of why, even with all the problems plauging the Church, I remain faithfully Catholic. This is where I mind Christ, where I meet Christ, where I take his stories and make them my own. With Christ, the journey takes a lifetime. Perfection is the goal, and there is always another step that can be taken toward that end.