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Life of Virtue & Righteousness (17)

Pope Shenouda III | 31 October 2010

 Measured by the kind of one's interests
The Lord Christ said to Martha, "You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10: 41) What about you, brother; what are your priorities? Your priorities determine your enthusiasm, your actions, and your will.

• Priorities vary according to the person: Martha cared about serving the Lord, whereas Mary's interest was to sit at His feet and listen to Him.
   Martha became an example of ministry, and Mary an example of meditation. Similarly, shepherds take interest in ministry, and monks in meditation. A few only, like St. Paul, combine between both ways. According to one's interests, one's life is determined.
 
• Take yourself as an example: when you wake up every morning, what do you have in mind?
   Do you only think of your daily practices: wash, take your breakfast, put on your clothes, and get ready to go to work; or rather of starting your day with the Lord, praying, reading, and meditating? What you are mindful of will determine your action. Some may excuse themselves that they have no time for prayer, but I always reject this excuse and do not hold it as real justification.
   If you set prayer and meditation top of your interests, you will find time for them.
   The same applies to prayer within the scope of ministry and in the minister's private life. Some ministers focus on preparing lessons more than on preparing themselves spiritually. They are mindful of the times of ministry and meetings, the presents, the library, the club, visitation, or activities in general. They hardly do the same with respect to their prayers, and rarely do they organize prayer meetings as they do for youths' meetings!
 
   Activities may have priority rather than prayer.
   Spiritual work may not have the same priority. With respect to Clubs, for instance, ministers may care about the place and arrangements, the games, the sports, amusement, or about the club card, times, competitions, performance groups and choirs. In all this overall spiritual supervision may be lacking. Actually, clubs with their noise and faults do not give the spiritual image hoped for, and may not differ from ordinary clubs if there is no spiritual supervision. Clubs in such cases are not top of our concerns.    
• The same phenomenon is found in the field of social service.
   Our main concern may be providing the poor, whether giving them money directly or helping them in cases of unemployment, sickness, or housing and the like, but rarely do we care about their spiritual life. Even if spiritual meetings are organized for them, they may be mere formalities rather than a way to attach them to God and follow up their repentance, confession and partaking of he holy communion. 
• The same can be said about the projects and expenditures of some churches.
   Some churches pay for constructions, for expensive decorations, icons, and chandeliers, whereas neither the Church Board nor the clergy are mindful of serving the poor of their church or the neighboring churches spiritually.    
• The same applies to childcare within the family.
   The parents may think they care about their children and their future life. Well, but what is the kind of such care? They may be concerned about their health, their nourishment and clothing, their education and preparing them for a good career, and finally for their marriage. Having realized all this they feel satisfied that they have fulfilled their duty successfully! However, they may have never cared about their children's spirituality or eternal life! They do not provide them with their daily spiritual nourishment, and are satisfied with sending them to the Sunday Schools, without even following up what lessons they have received there. or adding to them during the week. It is as if the father is not responsible for his children's spiritual knowledge and education, nor the mother responsible for her children's spiritual growth and virtues, though she had received them on their baptism to be their spiritual mother also.
   The question remains: what is our main concern, our deep and real concern?
   Some others may care about filling the church with people, rather than leading those numbers to God. To realize this they may use worldly means. Some denominations for instance attract some needy people from their churches by giving them financial and social assistance! Their main interest is to increase the number in their churches, even at the expense of other churches, without caring about edifying God's Kingdom!
• Others give all care to their bodies.
   They care about their food, their clothing and even their fleshly desires, whereas the Lord says, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on … For after all these things the Gentiles seek." (Mt 6: 25, 32) In this respect, St. Paul says, "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God … those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8: 6- 8)
   "For if you live according to the flesh you will die."
   "But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Rom 8: 13) Where then do we place our enjoyment and concern? Solomon the Wise enjoyed sensual fleshly lusts to the farthest extent, saying, "Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them." What was the result? He realized that all was vanity and grasping for the wind (Eccl 2: 10, 11)!
 
   Some care about the inner comfort of themselves or of the others, even on no spiritual basis. The mother for instance may care mainly about gaining her son's love, even at the expense of his spirituality, so she coddles him and fulfills all his wishes, covers his sins and never rebukes him for any wrongdoing, fearing to lose his love! This will spoil him! The reason is that his mother did not try to lead him on the right way even if he got angry. She could convince and correct him, make up with him. If she cared about his inner comfort rather than his eternity, he would lose his eternal life and even his social life, for he will not find the same coddling he received at home, so he will turn against the community and lose his peace and may separate himself from his community!
 
   Some may care about the inner feelings of a patient, rather than about his eternity.
   They may use lies and deceit to conceal from the patient his real disease and its danger so as not to hurt his feelings! Death may come to him all of a sudden without having been ready for it, and he may perish. We should wisely prepare a person contracting a hopeless disease for his eternal life. We should not of course reveal to him his real disease if he cannot bear it, but we should be careful to prepare him spiritually. Even if a miracle happens and the patient is healed, we will have led him wisely with all available means of grace to a positive life with God, not merely for fear of death. 
• Do you focus on yourself or on the others, giving them priority over yourself?
  What is your main concern? Are you mindful only of yourself, or you extend beyond the ego, and is mindful of the others? Do you attempt with all your heart to serve them, even unto self-sacrifice?
• Do you care about your, or the others' comfort?
   Can you build your own comfort on the fatigue of the others? Some people lay heavy burdens on their father, which he cannot bear. Spiritual people and reformers focused their main interest on their community, on families, acquaintances and friends, church, nation, and the whole world, contributing to the comfort of everybody and alleviating their troubles. That is why organizations and societies were founded aiming at the rescue of people and extending help to them, such as the world health organizations, child organizations, and other organizations aiming at saving the world from hunger, disasters, and social problems. Other organizations take on themselves printing and publishing the Holy Bible to spread the Word of God, and others struggle for human rights.
 
• The Lord Christ's whole concern was the others.
   He went about doing good (Acts 10: 38), preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people (Mt 4: 23). He had compassion on everybody, satisfying the needs of everybody, preaching good tidings to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isa 61: 1).
 
   At the same time He cared not about Himself, He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk 9: 58)!
   He cared not about His dignity when a village of the Samaritans did not receive Him. He even rebuked His disciples when they wanted to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them. He said to them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Lk 9: 51- 56)
   On the cross, His concern was about the salvation of mankind, forgiveness for His crucifiers, and Paradise for the thief on His right hand. His concern also was about His mother the Holy Virgin and His disciple John!
 
• Sometimes a person's main concern is to attain a certain purpose.
   That purpose may not be a spiritual one, but just for self-assertion or self-improvement, whatever the means may be, spiritual or not, human, worldly, or wrong means. A person may lose himself as King Ahab did when he desired the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, and as his wife Queen Jezebel did when she plotted by a crime and by false witnesses against Naboth to fulfill the desire of her husband! Both of them received the suitable punishment of their sins (1 Kgs 21)!
 
   The same happened from Rebekah when she wanted her son to receive the blessing of his father –though a spiritual purpose- by deceit (Gen 27). Some ministers focus on filling the minds of those whom they serve with knowledge, not mindful of their spiritual life and its growth. Some parents also are keen on making their children learn by heart some parts of the Scripture, but care not about spiritual exercises that deepen their relationship with God, while the Scripture says, "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."
 
   Do we still ask what things should we care about? The Lord Christ says in the Sermon on the Mount, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
   On another occasion, God willing, I shall speak to you about the Kingdom of God, our attachment to it, and seeking it.
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