A story tells us that there was once an old stone monastery tucked away in the middle of a picturesque forest. For many years people would make the significant detour 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 the animosity was felt by those who visited.
The Abbot of the monastery was distressed by what was happening, and poured out his heart to his good friend Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a wise old Jewish rabbi. 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.”
Jeremiah said that he had received a vision, an important vision, and the vision was this: the messiah was among the ranks of the monks. The Abbot was flabbergasted. One among his own… living in the monastery was the Messiah!.. the Christ!… Who could it be? He knew it wasn’t himself.. but who? He raced back to the monastery and shared his exciting news with his fellow monks.
The monks grew silent as they looked into each other’s faces. Was this one the Messiah? Or maybe that one? From that day on the mood in the monastery changed. Joseph and Ivan started talking again, neither wanting to be guilty of slighting the Messiah. Pierre and James left behind their frosty anger and sought out each other’s forgiveness. The monks began serving each other, looking out for opportunities to assist, seeking healing and forgiveness where offense had been given.
As one traveler, then another, found their way to the monastery word soon spread about the remarkable spirit of the place. People once again took the journey to the monastery and found themselves renewed and transformed. All because those monks knew the Messiah was among them.
Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.” The monks learned an important lesson. They learned that when Jesus calls us to be faithful, he is calling us to be faithful with what he has provided and the state of life we are in; when we prove to be faithful there, then we can move on to greater things. Consider this: A quick run through the news and we easily see that the world has some serious problems. A quick run through Facebook and you can see that almost everyone has an opinion on how these problems can – without question – be solved (I’m guilty of it, too), but I wonder how many have similar problems, on a smaller scale, existing in their own homes. Yes, peace in Syria or politicians talking to one another in Washington would be great, but do we have peace in our own homes or is there fighting there also? Are we ignoring those we disagree with and shutting them out of our lives? Gandhi once said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” Or to rephrase Jesus words, When we are faithful in our own lives, then we will be faithful in greater matters.”
Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln we celebrate today, was one who grasped this idea. Even after becoming Bishop he understood that it was those that God had placed in his care must be his greatest concern. He said, “I am obligated to visit the sheep committed to me with all diligence, as Scripture prescribes.” He looked first to the care of his own house. Like him or the monks, to solve the greater issues of this world we must first be faithful in our own lives. And it begins, not in arguments or by spouting off opinions or insisting on being right, but in faithfulness and humility… by seeing Christ in the face of everyone you meet.