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A Parable of the Church

O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Lk 13, 34

There was once a Mother who had a very large family. She had not only many sons and daughters of Her own, but also an adopted son, called Cain. Her eldest son was called Abel and Her second son was called Antony.

One day it came about that a great legion of devils entered into Cain and, to the horror of all, he slew Abel, who was meek and noble and righteous. And after this Cain began to threaten and torment Abel’s Mother and all his brothers and sisters. Dread and terror seized the whole family and they feared for their lives. Three of the brothers fled abroad. They received a message from their much grieving Mother, saying that for the time being She would not be able to care for them, for She feared for Her own life and for those of all her sons and daughters. They would have to look after themselves until she could communicate with them freely once more.

On righteous Abel’s death, a great darkness had entered on all the earth. To the shock of the Mother and of most of Her sons and daughters, at home and especially abroad, a few of Her children had from weakness and cowardice started to work with Cain, entering into agreements with him. They did such things and repeated his lies, not because they believed in Cain, but out of great fear of him, to protect themselves and their families.

This lasted for many years. But then things started to go very badly for Cain. Finally, one day Cain listened to his exhausted Mother who spoke to him and to those of Her children who had entered into agreements with him thus: ‘If you do not repent, soon your Father will return, raise Abel from the dead and take you away from here, avenging us all’. Her wayward sons and daughters repented at once and asked forgiveness. At last even Cain began to understand the error of his ways and saw that he needed his Mother and brothers and sisters. He came to them all and knelt down, begging their forgiveness and begging forgiveness of Abel whom he had slain. And they forgave him.

Then the Mother sent word of all this abroad, to where three of Her sons had gone to dwell. She asked the eldest of the three, Antony, as well as his two younger brothers to come and see Her. After such a long time they could scarcely believe that at long last Cain had repented. They asked: ‘How can we believe this when for all these long years we received from You messengers who lied to us?’ And their Mother answered them thus: ‘Those messengers were false messengers and lied to you. They were not sent by me, but by Cain. They did not come in my name, but in the name of Cain. Come to me, my sons.

Of the three, who had argued against their elder brother in their Mother’s absence, only Antony, always the most loyal, went to see his Mother. He had always loved Her and when he saw Her and all his long lost brothers and sisters, he understood that at last they were all free and that Cain’s repentance was true. They all asked forgiveness of one another and together they feasted and made glad with great rejoicing and the angels in heaven did sing. After this Antony returned to his own home, with delight in his heart, for his Mother had said to him: ‘All that I have is yours and we shall never be parted again’. And Antony faithfully accepted the words of his Mother with joy and gladness.

Now, as we have said, the Mother had sent messengers to Antony’s younger brothers, inviting them too, but they had not come to the feast. So She asked Antony why this was so. And Antony answered Her thus: ‘My elder brother would not come because he said that he could never forgive Cain and, more than this, he could never forgive You, Mother, for forgiving Cain’. His Mother answered: ‘We shall be patient, for my son still has bitterness in his heart and, if he does not die, he will yet learn forgiveness and be healed. Tell him that he is ever with us and that all that we have is his’.

Antony continued: ‘As for my younger brother, he has gone off into a far country and there he has wasted his substance with harlots and riotous living. There has arisen now a mighty famine in that land and he has been sent into the fields to feed swine. And he fills his belly with the impure husks that the swine do eat and no man gives unto him’. ‘Be patient’, said his mother, ‘and he will repent. When, in God’s time, he comes towards you and is yet a great way off, have compassion on him, and run, and fall on his neck, and kiss him, and make feast together. For this your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found’.

17/30 June 2012
St John of Shanghai

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