(Matthew 13:31-33, 44-45)
A story passed on....
There was once a vast rocky wilderness, void of all vegetation but the hardiest thorns, thistles, weeds and briers. Through the middle of the desert stretched a rough road along which all of humanity was making a pilgrimage. They struggled along footsore and thirsty, tired and frightened. But at one point along the way a clear spring of running water bubbled up out of a naked rock. No one knows who first discovered it, the secret long forgotten. Yet for countless generations the people journeying along the road stopped to be refreshed. When they did, they found to their surprise that the waters not only satisfied their thirst but also satisfied deeper needs of self. Somehow in drinking at the source, they found their minds and bodies healed, their hopes and courage growing strong again. Life became rich with fresh meaning. They called the spot, "The Place of Living Waters," and the spring, "The Water of Life."
As time passed, people began to roll up boulders around the spring as monuments of gratitude. As generations passed, the monuments became more elaborate and ornate, until at last, the spring was totally enclosed, arched by a great fortress-like cathedral and protected by high stone walls. A special group of people with special robes and a language of their own came to be and set rules for preserving the purity of the well. Access was no longer free to all and disagreements as to who could drink there and when and how sometimes grew so bitter that wars were fought over them.
The victors, of course, always put up more monuments and safeguards in gratitude for winning, and so it was that as years rolled by, the spring itself was bricked over and lost from view. When people complained about the loss, those in charge mocked their cries and ignored them. Beautiful ceremonies were carried out inside the holy place to celebrate what the well had done for pilgrims many years before, while at the gates people were dying of thirst.
Eventually, other water was piped in at great expense from a distance but it seemed that it just wasn't the same. And so in the end, the vast majority of people who journeyed along the route avoided the now sacred place of living waters, and survived in whatever way they could. Many, when they passed the shrine, recalled stories they had learned in youth about the hidden spring and were struck by longings too deep to utter. Others struggled on, embittered by cynical doubt that the waters had ever existed. But sometimes in the night, when all the chanting and ceremonies were still, those few pilgrims who stole into the shrine to rest for a moment in some corner out of sight were sure they could hear an almost miraculous sound. From somewhere deep under the foundations of the great rock structure there came the faint echo of running water. And their eyes would brim with tears in the sanctuary of living waters.
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