“This story was told: There were three friends, serious men, who became monks. One of them chose to make peace between men who were at odds, as it is written: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:29). The second chose to visit the sick. The third chose to go away to be quiet in solitude. Now the first, toiling among contentions, was not able to settle all quarrels and, overcome with weariness, he went to him who tended the sick and found him also failing in spirit and unable to carry out his purpose. So the two went away to see him who had withdrawn into the desert, and they told him their troubles. They asked him to tell them how he himself had fared. He was silent for a while, and then poured water into a vessel and said, “Look at the water,” and it was murky. After a little while he said again, “See now, how clear the water has become.” As they looked into the water, they saw their own faces, as in a mirror. Then he said to them, “So it is with anyone who lives in a crowd; because of the turbulence he does not see his sins: but when he has been quiet, above all in solitude, then he recognizes his own faults.”
Systematic Sayings, 2.16. The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (New York: Penguin Books, 2003
None of these monks went to pursue a selfish work or a bad work. Ostensibly, they all pursued a good work and yet only one is recorded as having made any progress. In a time obsessed with ‘social justice’, we must remember that the wellbeing of my neighbour and even of my enemy is served by my pursuit of holiness and by my self knowledge (Here accurate self-knowledge is the key). Let us back away from the noise, the chaos and the tempest of the day and turn to God. Let us find that inner peace wherein we will be able to join in with the prayer we see daily in the Agpeya in saying that I am the chief of sinners. I am the one who needs reform and only by beginning my repentance can the world be made holy.
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