The Most Precious Thing
Long ago an angel disobeyed God. The angel was called before God for judgment. He pleaded for mercy and for forgiveness. God looked down at the angel from his throne and said, "I will forgive you for your sin, and I will not punish you. However, you must atone for your sin by doing a task for me. You will not rest until the task is complete. You must go down to Earth and bring me the most precious thing in the entire world."
The angel hurried down to Earth, expecting this to be an easy job. He looked at all the riches in the world. He found gold and silver. He found money, rare gems and valuables of all kinds. To each of these, the Lord said, The most precious thing in the world cannot be found in the things that people can buy and sell.
The angel traveled back to Earth and continued to search for the most precious thing. He saw a young man and young woman look for the first time into each other's eyes. Could first love be the most important thing? It was not.
The angel watched the birth of a couple's first child. God smiled on the birth. But, it was not the most important thing. One day, the angel flew over a battlefield where a wounded soldier lay dying on the ground. The angel's heart was moved. He took a drop of the man's blood before the Lord. "What could be more precious than the blood of a man who died for his country?" asked the angel.
"This is precious," said God, "but not the MOST precious thing in the world."
The angel returned to Earth once more constantly searching for the most precious thing. One day the angel saw a nurse in a large hospital. The nurse cared for people with a terrible disease and caught the disease herself. The angel caught the nurse's last breath as she was dying and took it to the Lord. "What could be more precious than the last breath of a woman who gave her life for others?" he asked.
"This is precious," said the Lord, "But it is not the MOST important thing in the world."
Once again the angel returned to Earth. Year after year the angel searched both day and night trying whatever God would call the MOST important thing. On a dark night, the angel saw a wicked man planning to take revenge on the family of a man who had wronged him. The angel watched as the man peered into the window. He stood watching the mother teach her children to say their prayers. The angel could not tell what went through the man's mind. But, he saw the man bow his own head. He remembered the prayers he had learned from his own mother when he was young. Tears filled his eyes as he turned away from his evil deed repenting his ways.
The angel caught one of the tears and flew back to heaven with it.
God opened his arms to embrace the angel and smiled as he approached. "I see you found it," said the Lord. ""You have completed your task. You found the MOST important thing, 'the tear of a repentant sinner.' Repentance opens the gates of heaven."
Dr. Lockett adapted this story from a tale told in the 1950's by Dorothy Zeligs. Zeligs wrote a number of books containing stories related to the Jewish faith. This story relates to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is celebrated on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The date varies from year to year, usually falling in late September or early October. The holiday is a time for forgiving the wrongs done by others and for starting the year with a clean conscience and much joy and happiness. This is worthy of being celebrated by all faiths.