Bishop and Christian*, May 2016

A Parable of Martyr-dom

One day, two men were talking as they walked down the hall of the hospital wing in which they both resided. As they talked, they discovered that they had the same terminal disease. In fact, the diagnoses of this particular disease were increasing exponentially, so that the Centers for Disease Control was considering whether to declare a world-wide epidemic.

“Is there a cure?” the one asked the other.

“Yes! Actually, they found the cure a long time ago.”

“Well, what is it? The symptoms of this disease are destroying my life.”

“It’s really a simple and easy thing, if you know where to look. You just have to see the right Doctor, and He has cases and cases of the stuff. More than enough for everyone with the disease.”

“There are so many people with this disease, they all must want it. It must be very expensive.”

“No, see, that’s just it: the Doctor gives it all away for free. You just have to go to one of the thousands of clinics He’s set up for dispensing the stuff.”

“Is it just a one-time injection? An antibiotic? A pill?”

“For now, the medicine just kind of keeps the disease at bay, as long as you keep taking it. You still have the symptoms, but you’re cured. In fact, it’s so good, it lasts beyond death. You die from what’s left of the disease in your body, but the Doctor promises that this medicine is so good, you’ll live after death. And then the disease will be completely gone.”

“So you have to keep going back to the Doctor your whole life?”

“Yeah. But that’s better than the alternative! And the Doctor has infinite patience. He knows how it is, and He never gets tired of giving out the medicine. It’s something having to do with His own Body and Blood. He says He already died from the disease, so His Flesh and Blood give immunity and life.”

“So you must go to this Doctor all the time!”

“Well, not all the time. I go to Him when I feel like it. You know how life gets so busy, and sometimes I forget. The symptoms get worse for a while, but then I adjust. You kind of get numb to the disease after a while.”

“But isn’t that a bad thing? If you still have the disease, but you ignore it or pretend it’s not there or get numb to it, won’t it kill you?”

“Yeah, but not for a long time. Like I said, I go when I feel the need. You know, I get my fix, and then I’m good for a while.”

“But the disease doesn’t go away in between, right? I mean, do you just get a little medicine to feel better? You must be able to get the medicine somewhere else, then?”

“No, I’m pretty sure this Doctor has the only medicine there is.”

“Then why wouldn’t you see Him all the time? Why wouldn’t you want to get the medicine for the disease, even when you can’t see the symptoms? Why wouldn’t you want to get the medicine as often as the Doctor hands it out? Why wouldn’t you be begging Him to give it to you more often?”

The two men returned to their rooms, the one back to his comfortable life, pretending he really wasn’t all that sick, and the other to his room, thinking: “This medicine must not be all that important; even the ones who know about it don’t act like it’s as good as they say it is. That guy only goes to get it once in a while, and he doesn’t look too worse for the wear. Maybe I can get a generic version somewhere. You don’t get anything good for free, anyway, right? Lasts beyond death? Right. Sounds like a quack selling snake-oil to me….”

Pr. Winterstein



*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

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