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Nigal Tzur wrote:

Hi guys,

A few months ago I participated in a Sunday Mass in which the priest talked about The Spider's Thread story. I did find the story but I cannot remember what the exact instructive purpose behind this story was.

I remember it was very wise and was wondering if you can enlighten me.

Thank you,

Nigal Tzur

  { Can you enlighten me on the sermon that deals with The Spider's Thread? }

John replied:

Dear Nigal,

I did a Google search for it here is what Wikipedia has to say:

It has it's roots in Buddhism. Here is the story:

The Buddha Shakyamuni is meandering around Paradise one morning, when he stops at a lotus-filled pond. Between the lilies, he can see, through the crystal-clear waters, the depths of Hell. His eyes come to rest on one sinner in particular, by the name of Kandata. Kandata was a cold-hearted criminal, but had one good deed to his name: while walking through the forest one day, he decided not to kill a spider he was about to crush with his foot. Moved by this single act of compassion, the Buddha takes the silvery thread of a spider in Paradise and lowers it down into Hell.

Down in Hell, the myriad sinners are struggling in the Pool of Blood, in total darkness save for the light glinting off the Mountain of Spikes, and in total silence save for the sighs of the damned. Kandata, looking up by chance at the sky above the pool, sees the spider's thread descending towards him and grabs hold with all the might of a seasoned criminal. The climb from Hell to Paradise is not a short one, however, and Kandata quickly tires. Dangling from the middle of the rope, he glances downward, and sees how far he has come. Realizing that he may actually escape from Hell, he is overcome by joy and laughs giddily. His elation is short-lived, however, as he realizes that others have started climbing the thread behind him, stretching down into the murky depths below. Fearing that the thread will break from the weight of the others, he shouts that the spider's thread is his and his alone. It is at this moment that the thread breaks, and he and all the other sinners are cast back down into the Pool of Blood.

Shakyamuni witnesses this, knowing all but still with a slightly sad air. In the end, Kandata condemned himself by being concerned only with his own salvation and not that of others. But Paradise continues on as it has, and it is nearly noontime there. Thus the Buddha continues his meanderings.

As Christians we can glean the following:

Our concern should not only be for our salvation but the salvation of others. That is why we are each called to evangelize. Jesus used parables about trees yielding fruit. Well, the fruit is other souls won for the Kingdom. Also, the parable of talents shares some parallels. The idea being, we are given the faith.

  • What do we do with it?
  • Do we keep it to ourselves or do we share it . . producing fruit, more talents, or what not?

Of course, we have to be careful when using parables from other religions but it actually is a long tradition of the Church to do so. We see in Acts Chapter 17 that Saint Paul, when speaking to Epicurean Philosophers in Athens, pointed to their own statue to the unknown god (Acts 17:24-34) and quoted one of their own pagan poets to have a reference point from which to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Later on Saints Cyril and Methodius evangelized much of Eastern Europe using similar techniques which incorporated certain cultural elements into the Gospel.


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