There was an old man at Scetis, very austere of body, but not very clear in his thoughts. He went to see Abba John to ask him about forgetfulness. Having received a word from him, he returned to his cell and forgot what Abba John had said to him. He went off again to ask him and having heard the same word form him he returned with it. As he got near his cell, he forgot it again. This he did many times; he went there, but while he was returning he was overcome by forgetfulness. Later, meeting the old man he said to him, do you know, Abba, that I have forgotten again what you said to me? But I did not want to overburden you, so I did not come back. Abba John said to him, ‘Go and light a lamp’. He lit it. He said to him ‘Bring some more lamps and light them from the first’ He did so. Then Abba John said to the old man, ‘has that lamp suffered any loss form the fact that other lamps have been lit from it? He said, “No”. The old man continued, ‘so it is with John; even if the whole of Scetis came to see me, they would not separate me from the love of Christ. Consequently, whenever you want to come to me without hesitation. Thanks to the endurance of these two men, God took forgetfulness away from the old man. Such was the work of the monks of Scetis, they inspire fervor in those who are in the conflict and do violence to themselves to win others to do good. (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers)
I am sure that we in modern time do not think in this manner. We do not encourage people to do harm to themselves in order to gain souls for God. But there are a few of us who think of ourselves as a candle for Christ. We sing that little song “This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine”. We make a big deal of passing the new light at Easter, and sing “The light of Christ”
With this light we do the work of inspiring fervor in others. We might not think of ourselves as being in a conflict, but we are. There are a hundreds of distractions that keep us from what is true and valuable. Now more than ever I have so many things going on at the same time. Time Competition is a modern form of conflict. Some would have us believe that it is the Devil that is at the bottom of it all. Some would have us believe that it is our own disbelief in God. I will leave the answer to this question up to you.
Then there is the din; you know the background noise, music at the shopping center, at the doctor’s office, in the car and all eating-places. I can’t take a walk in the neighborhood with out the din coming from TV’s and radios. No one has the same station so that I can have my din in stereo.
I have a din free zone at home. At first the room was set up this way for my radio station. But the real reason I needed some place to go and spend some time in quiet. Sure I have a radio station in this room and my study. In fact I have so much going on in this room even the room is a distraction. I do have a place that I can go and be in quite and it has become a heaven.
Remembering to encourage in the middle of the din is very hard work. People around me seem to want some encouragement as they deal with the pressures of modern life. I do my best to talk from that space I have made away form the din.
There is always hurt and reward with the Desert Fathers. The selections in today’s readings are from the first letter of Peter. Encouraging the early Christian community to not lose hope in the midst of their suffering. The theology of the Desert Fathers was that of Christians that lived to spread the word of God by action. Today we will hear a lot about prayer. We may even hear about prayer in action and also inaction. Prayers as breathing in and out, if you do hear about prayer today stop and listen with the ear of your heart. Prayer is a statement of love. Prayer values everyone for who they are and not by what they do or how productive they are.
Abba John said,” Who sold Joseph?” A brother replied saying, “It was his brethren”. The old man said to him, “No, it was his humility which sold him, because he could have said, “I am their brother” and have objected, but because he kept silence, he sold himself by his humility. It is also his humility, which set him up as chief in Egypt.