All the Difference in the World

[While it is true that one can find a certain compatibility among different faith traditions, there are significant differences. Here is a superb retelling of a story that’s been around for a long time.]

There is a parable about a man who was traveling down a certain path. He came to a bend in the path, and being in a hurry, he decided to take a shortcut. He knew that he was not familiar with the shortcut which he decided to take, but reasoned that since it wasn’t too far across and that it would save him some time it was worth the risk.

He had traveled off the main path only a very short distance when he discovered that he was in the midst of a bed of quicksand! No wonder other travelers had avoided taking the shortcut. Slowly he felt himself going under.

Worried that he would die before anyone could pass by to help him, his heart leaped for joy when he heard the footsteps of another traveler coming down the main path. Soon the traveler came into view and the sinking man recognized him as Confucius. “Help!” he called out. “Help me. I’m sinking!” Confucius saw him, paused and then remarked: “That should be evidence that men should stay out of such places.” With that Confucius continued on his way.

As the man continued to slowly sink into the quicksand, he knew that he would soon be dead. But suddenly there was another traveler on the path. The sinking man recognized the traveler as Buddha. “Help me, Buddha, before I die.” Buddha looked at the man and spoke: “Kill the desire to live which you have and you will be alright.” Then Buddha continued down the path.

By and by another traveler came down the road. He was Mohammed. As the sinking man cried out for help, Mohammed stopped to survey the situation. Seeing what had happened, Mohammed cried out to the man: “I can do nothing. It is the will of Allah.” With that, Mohammed passed on by.

By the time that the quicksand was to the man’s waist, a Hindu appeared on the path. In a voice weak from exhaustion the sinking man called out for help. “Please, my friend, help me for I am about to die.” The Hindu showed little concern for the man, but he did try to comfort him. “Don’t worry,” the Hindu called out, “perhaps in the next life you will return to earth in the form of the sacred cow.” The sinking man watched as he walked away.

The man had given up hope of survival by this time.

The quicksand was up to his shoulders and only one arm and his head were still exposed. But he heard footsteps on the path again. Looking up, he saw that it was Christ walking down the path. In a feeble, broken voice he cried for help. “Sir, I have called to others for help. In their own way each of them did what he believed would be of help to me. Please, sir, unless you help me I shall surely die.”

Jesus left the main path, went down to where the quicksand was, and reached out His hand. “Give me your hand and I shall pull you out.”

Together, arm in arm, they walked down the main path.


[PHOTO by Father Greg Andrews]


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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6 Responses to All the Difference in the World

  1. sharonandsal says:

    A great one!!

  2. A wonderful reminder of the truth that Our Lord is always reaching out to us even when we don’t call out for His help!

  3. Kristin Choate says:

    I respect all religions, but I always feel so sorry for those who don’t know Jesus. Without the constant help of Jesus I could never dream of salvation.

  4. Here is a true story: when I was in India, other Americans would just breathe it all in and say how beyond great everything was. This is the way life should be led, they would sigh. Then, one day, as we stood on the bank of a tributary of the Ganges, we saw a family with a small child in a boat watch as the baby fell overboard to its death. Why hadn’t the family just reached out a hand and save the baby? Well, the family was Buddhist, and it was in their belief system that to interfere in the transition of a soul from one life to its next was a bad thing. It’s all about the wheel of life, you see.

    I noticed that after that incident the Americans that I was with no longer sang so loudly about their respect for everything Indian.

  5. Anne Comeaux says:

    This troubles me a bit. My belief in the totality of Catholicism does not necessitate my questioning what others believe, especially as presented in this “parable”. The examples here seem to infer that the one choice here is the entirety of Buddism, Confucionism, Muslims, etc. There are many attitudes and even practices which have been incorporated into Christian spirituality from other traditions and are not necessarily “heretical” in their presence. Just sayin’…..

  6. Gail Bays says:

    This is so very beautiful.

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