Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Abba Agathon's Test
"Going to town one day to sell some small articles, Abba Agathon met a cripple on the roadside, paralysed in his legs, who asked him where he was going. Abba Agathon replied, "To town, to sell some things."
The other said, "Do me the favor of carrying me there." So he carried him to the town.
The cripple said to him, "Put me down where you sell your wares." He did so.
When he had sold an article, the cripple asked, "What did you sell it for?" And he told him the price. The other said, "Buy me some bread," and he bought it.
When Abba Agathon had sold a second article, the sick man asked, "How much did you sell it for?" And he told him the price of that also. Then the other said, "Buy me this," and he bought it.
When Agathon, having sold all his wares, wanted to go, he said to him, "Are you going back?" and he replied, "Yes." Then he said, "Do me the favor of carrying me back to the place where you found me." Once more he picked him up and he carried him back to that place.
Then the cripple said, "Agathon, you are filled with divine blessingd, in heaven and on earth." Raising his eyes, Agathon saw no man, it was an angel of the Lord, come to try him."
-The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward
How do we deal with those who are overbearing? People who ask too much? Perhaps we could politely set boundaries, and that's fine. Perhaps we could give what we can and the rest leave to another. Or we can even contact another to help the need.
But if we want to obtain God's blessings, we must do all we can to help the needy, as obnoxious as they are, as ungrateful as they are, as irreligious as they seem, as impolite as they seem. Because they could very well be angels, come to test you.
This very same desert father, Abba Agathon, was asked if he feared death. He replied, "I am but a man, how am I to know if my deeds are acceptable to God?" We must do what we can, and allow God's mercy through Christ to judge us. And we must do the same for others. For who knows, but the obnoxious person asking for food or a ride might be an angel in disguise? (Genesis 18, Hebrews 13:2)
"Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Luke 12:33)