There once lived a very good and pious priest. One Sunday he told his congregation, “Next week I shall give an excellent sermon. It will be quite a long sermon, and it will be all-illumining. I believe it will help you all immensely. So do come and listen to my wonderful sermon.”
The following Sunday, he came to the church. Alas, nobody was there except one old man! The priest could not believe his eyes. He had informed everyone in advance that he would give a wonderful sermon which would illumine them. How is it that the church was not full to overflowing? He was shocked.
He said to the old man, “I have prepared such an excellent sermon. Now you are the only one to hear it. Tell me, is it worthwhile to give the sermon to one individual?”
The old man said, “What can I say? You are a priest and I am a fool. I have come here to receive illumination from you.”
Then the priest said, “It is not worth giving illumination to only one person.”
The old man said, “Father, I have something to tell you.”
“What is it?” asked the priest.
The old man said, “Father, I am a farmer. I have quite a few cows. Every day I go to the cow shed and take lots of fodder. But some days when I go to the cow shed, for some reason, only one cow has come to eat. There should have been many cows, but on that day there is only one cow. Still I do my job. I feed the one who has come. Then I go back home.”
The priest understood the old man’s point. That was his first illumination — not to count how many have come to hear his message. Even if only one person has come and that person is sincere, he should be taken seriously.
So the priest gave his long sermon to his audience of one person. Unfortunately, from time to time the farmer started sleeping soundly. At the end of the sermon, the priest asked him, “How did you enjoy it?”
The farmer replied, “I enjoyed it very much.”
The priest persisted, “But tell me more.”
The farmer said, “All right. I shall tell you my opinion. When I go to the cow shed with a lot of fodder and I see there is only one cow, I do not force that cow to eat all the fodder that I have brought. It would die. I bring a large quantity, but it is up to the cow how much it eats. I do not force it to eat beyond its capacity. In your case, you came with a large quantity of wisdom, but I was the only one to receive it. You delivered your entire sermon all the same. How was I going to digest the whole thing? How was I going to understand it? It was far beyond my capacity. I was literally dying while listening to your long sermon. To be perfectly frank, I have not learned anything.”
The priest realised his mistake. That was his second illumination.
Now it happened that in a few years’ time, both the priest and the farmer passed away on the same day. When they went to Heaven, St. Peter was waiting for them. St. Peter said to them, “What have you both been doing throughout your life?”
The priest said, “I have been preaching and preaching and preaching.”
Then the farmer said, “I have been farming and farming and farming.”
St. Peter said to the priest, “Oh, I remember you. You are a fool! For the fools Heaven’s door is closed.”
To the farmer, St. Peter said, “You are truly a wise man. Heaven’s door is always open to the wise. Come inside.”
Then he turned once more to the priest and said, “You go back to earth and change your profession. I want you to be a farmer and learn how to feed cows. Then you will acquire some wisdom.”
Then to the farmer he said, “You stay in Heaven for a number of years. Then I will send you back to the world and I will make you a priest, so you can spread your wisdom. People come to church for wisdom. This fellow has no wisdom, but your wisdom has pleased me. You will go back as a priest and illumine people in your church.”