By Paulo Coelho
A man arrived, exhausted, at a monastery.
‘I have been looking for God for a long time,’ he said. ‘Perhaps you can teach me the right way to find Him.’
‘Come in and see our monastery,’ said the monk, taking his hand and leading him into the chapel. ‘Here you can see some of the finest works of art of the sixteenth century, portraying the life of the Lord and His glory amongst men.’
The man waited while the monk explained each of the beautiful paintings and sculptures adorning the chapel. Afterwards, he asked again:
‘Everything I have seen is very beautiful, but I would like to learn the right way to find God.’
‘Ah, God!’ exclaimed the monk. ‘You’re quite right, yes, God!’
And he led the man into the refectory, where the monks’ supper was being prepared.
‘Look around you. Supper will be served shortly, and you are invited to join us. You can listen to the reading of the Scriptures while you satisfy your hunger.’
‘But I’m not hungry and I have read all the Scriptures,’ insisted the man. ‘I want to learn. I came here to find God.’
The monk again took the stranger by the hand and they began strolling around the cloisters surrounding a lovely garden.
‘I ask my monks to keep the lawn well trimmed and to remove any dead leaves from the water in that fountain you can see in the middle. I think this is probably the cleanest monastery in the whole region.’
The stranger walked on a little way with the monk, then he excused himself, saying that he had to leave.
‘Aren’t you staying for supper?’ asked the monk.
While he was getting back on his horse, the stranger said:
‘Congratulations on your lovely chapel, your welcoming refectory and your impeccably clean courtyard. However, I have travelled many leagues in order to learn how to find God, not to be dazzled by efficiency, comfort and discipline.’
A lightning bolt fell from the sky, the horse neighed loudly, and the earth shook. Suddenly, the stranger tore off his disguise, and the monk found himself standing before Jesus.
‘God is wherever you allow Him to enter in,’ said Jesus. ‘But you closed the door of this monastery to him by using rules, pride, wealth and ostentation. The next time a stranger comes wanting to find God, do not show him what you have achieved in His name; listen to the question and try to answer it with love, charity and simplicity.’
And with that, he disappeared.
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