Friday, July 04, 2008

A Priest in Perak - A cautionary tale of noodle soup and 20 cents

There was once a priest who was newly transferred to a parish in Perak. Some days after his arrival, finding the food brought to him by his mainly Indian parishioners a little too spicy for his palate, he went to the local coffee shop to have a nice meal of Chinese rice noodle soup. Of course, he wore street clothes, as do all the Catholic priests in Malaysia.

He sat down at one of the run down tables and began to read the morning paper. Soon enough, the hawker brought a steaming hot bowl of noodles to him. Not paying much attention, he paid for the noodles and the hawker put the change down on the table.

As he ate the first spoonful, he found the soup too watery and the noodles overcooked and soggy. He was disappointed with the dish, as after hearing the locals rave about it for the past few days, he had expected better. Well, to be honest, being from Penang where the food is glorious, he was bound to be disappointed no matter what he ate. Anyway....

After finishing his meal, as he picked up his change, he realized that the man had returned him 20 cents extra. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, "You'd better give the 20 cents back. It's not right to keep it." Then he thought, "Forget it, it's only 20 cents and anyway, the food was horrible and not at all what it was made out to be. Who's going to bother about 20 cents? And look, the man is so busy cooking. It might disturb him if I were to interrupt. Let me just take it as a gift from God and keep quiet."

So he made his way out of the shop. But as he passed the stall, he paused momentarily and then handed the 20 cents to the man and said, "Hey boss, you gave me 20 cents extra change".

The hawker smiled and replied, "You're the new parish priest right? I haven't been going to Church for a number of years now because of a bad experience I had. I just gave you the extra change to see what you would do and whether you are also a hypocrite like the rest of them. I think I will be coming to see you soon."

The priest rushed back to the Church and fell to his knees before the Blessed Sacrament. "Sweet Jesus!", he said, in tears, "Judas betrayed you for 30 pieces of silver but I almost sold you for 20 cents! My example might have caused a soul to be lost!"

Most non-Christians will probably never read the bible. But they will read us and all the other Christians they come across. Our lives and our actions will be only Scripture they will ever read and we are closest encounters they will have of the Lord Jesus.

What we say and more importantly, what we do will determine what others think of the Church, the Faith and Our Lord. Are we just hypocrites? Have we, through our words and actions, through our commissions and omissions, led others to have a bad impression of the Lord and his Church? Have we driven someone away from Jesus?

I think we all, at some point, and some more than others, have been guilty of this. And for this sin, we need to beg the Lord's forgiveness and resolve to better represent the Lord who has made us, through our baptism, ambassadors of Christ. May we be Christ to others and let the Light of Christ shine through us.

The priest, shaken by this experience, has taken to wearing his cassock and collar in public, both as a sign of his calling to others and, primarily, as a sign of his own calling and consecration to himself. His vesture reminds him daily, at all times, of his identity and his own vocation as a priest and as a Christian and reminds him that his actions as a minister of Christ and the Church are a sign to others as well. It reminds him that people, and God, are watching.


The Hymn Selector said...

Wow...I must forward this to others.

Suzanne said...

I love to see our priests wear their is a beautiful sign.

Rita said...

A tale to remember and keep telling. Thank you for posting it.

Anonymous said...

Why do I feel that I have read a similar version of this story but places and people were slightly different?

Andrew said...

That's because, dear friend, I have inculturated this cautionary tale. BTW, I used it in catechism ths morning and it was rather well received.

Anonymous said...

If only our bishops lead by example ....

Anonymous said...

Yummy, Andrew! That soup looks delicious, but then I am not Chinese. Amazing story, whether you have "inculturated" it or not.

I must go to a Chinese eatery and see if they serve soup you have shown in the picture. Is that diced pork there? I was a Muslim until I converted to Christianity and now I find every excuse to eat my favourite meat- pork!

By the way I have e-mailed you sometime ago.