Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Bear's Lent: No Honey for Three Moons and No Ponies Forever

One afternoon, the Bear met Father Corbinian in the woods on the sunset side of the abbey, where the saint liked to spend time alone. However, he also seemed to enjoy frequent visits from his ursine friend. On this particular occasion, the Bear was very pleased with himself, and knew that Father Corbinian would have kind words for him.

The Bear found the old man sitting on a stump, reading a book, his back to the Bear.

"Father," the Bear said excitedly, "Bear saw a fat pony today!"

"Um-hmm," the old man responded.

"Bear wants you to know he didn't kill it!"

"Is that right?" he observed mildly.

"Yes. That is right." The Bear waited for praise, but Father Corbinian just kept reading.

After several minutes, Father Corbinian asked, "Do you think it will rain tomorrow, Bear?"

The Bear wondered if he had heard his good news. "No, Father. Did you hear what Bear said? He didn't eat the fat pony!"

"No," he replied after he had read some more, "I didn't think it would rain, either. Well, I must be going Bear. Good evening." And with that he got up and left.

The next morning, the Bear wandered near the same pasture he had seen the fat pony at the day before. He looked at it for a long time, for it was very fat. When he returned to his den, the blood all over his muzzle spoke as eloquently as Abel's.

The Bear did not seek out Father's Corbinian's company for a couple of days. When he did, he found him just as before, sitting on the same stump, reading a book with his back to the Bear. Neither spoke for a long time.

Finally, the Bear began, "Father--"

"You killed the pony," Father Corbinian observed, without looking up from his book.

"I am sorry, Father, but that is true. How did you know?"

"When you visited me last, you proudly took credit for not doing something bad," he answered, finally looking up and turning around.

"First, if you do not do evil, you should thank the Good God for his grace, not take credit for yourself. Second, if you are pleased with your efforts today, I can promise you that tomorrow you will fall. This is how God teaches us not to be proud, and not to take credit for the grace he gives us. He will wound us with a thorn to keep us from being too pleased with ourselves. If the Good God has permitted you not to displease Him too much, fear the morrow. Fast and pray. For you can be sure the Devil will be laying his snares."

"Why does the Good God punish us with the Devil when we have a good day?" the Bear asked.

Father Corbinian shut his book and rapped the Bear on the muzzle with it. "Are those furry round ears of yours deaf? The Author of all the good you do is the Good God. The author of all the bad is you. And another thing. Why did you go back to the pasture with the pony?"

"Bear, um... thought it would do no harm just to look."

"Are you really so wonderful that you can ignore temptation?"

"No, Father."

"That's called a 'near occasion of sin,'" Father Corbinian explained. "Avoid deliberately putting yourself in the way of temptation. That is very foolish and will end badly. If you weren't near the pony, you could not have harmed it. I thought you understood this!

"I hope you have learned your lesson from this sorry incident. Now, the abbey has a pony to spare to replace the one you killed. But as for you, eat what the Good God has provided in the wild. Except for this. Bring all the honey you find to me for the next three months."

"That is hard, Father," the Bear complained.

"And you have a special weakness for ponies, not to bring up ancient history. You must be extra careful about this vice. All of us reach perfection the same way, but each of us is caught in a different snare, as the devil knows well."

The Bear lumbered off deeper into the woods, thinking, No honey for three moons and no ponies forever.

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