A Real Short Story
A rich man from Rome visited Alexandria, bought a slave there and took him home. The slave was particular in his behavior. He worked hard, never complained, used to work silently helping his fellow slaves. He was always smiling; he never cracked a joke, was always gentle and looked serious and respectable.
When he was by himself, he used to praise the Lord and sing the Psalms. His master loved him dearly and made him the head of all his slaves. He even loved to be in his company, listening to his words though he did not talk much. His fellow slaves loved him as a kind father. The old slaves used to complain to him of their troubles and find in him a father with a big heart. The young ones also found in him amazing love and compassion.
They were all fond of him. He always talked about the Lord Jesus. He used to open the Holy Bible and talk to them about the Lord Jesus the Servant, the Master Who presented Himself to be slain for His slaves. He used to gather them to pray with one spirit. The features of their faces changed from those of miserable slaves to joyous faces, from the life of complaints to the life of thanksgiving and from the life of laziness to the life of hard work.
The blessings of the Lord came unto the palace and the master loved his slaves. He used to see them as his brothers, sit with them and listen to what they said. He was proud of them as friends more than as slaves and servants, specially that Alexandrian slave. He presented him to his visitors to see by their own eyes what they did not hear from the other slaves. They saw him as a blessing to the owner of the palace and to all those who worked there.
One day a man from Alexandria came to visit that master. The master started to speak to his guest about that Alexandrian slave and all what he did in the palace. He described how that slave changed the lives of all the people in the palace to a happy life and how he attracted many to the Person of our Lord Jesus.
The guest longed to see that Alexandrian slave. As soon as the guest saw that slave he gazed at him and started asking himself saying, "I wonder if he is...? But who brought him here?Ē The guest was as if in a dream. He remembered what happened a long time ago in one of the poor districts in Alexandria when he met on one cold evening with some of his poor relatives. He said to himself, "We were sitting around the fire to warm ourselves when one of my poor relatives said that he made a mistake by going to Peter the miserly to ask him for alms. Peter kicked him out and swore at him. One of those present commented by saying, "All the district knew that Peter was very mean and no one should go to him to ask for alms."
A third person said that no one could compete with Peter in his meanness. I said, "My brethren, why do we talk about Peter? And why do we condemn him because of his meanness? Who knows? One day he might change and become a man with a generous heart. After all, the Lord changed the hearts of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector and of Levi and of others."
All those present laughed at me. One of them said that I was naÔve. If Iíd any dealings with Peter, I wouldnít have said what I had said about him. No one in the world had a cruel heart and the love of money as Peterís.Ē
Then I felt embarrassed of what they said but I replied that I canít promise to be able to take some alms from Peter, but I know one thing, which is that my Lord Jesus is able to change our characters and our natures. Jesus can take away our weaknesses and offer us life. Letís all pray for Peter. Heís our brother; heís miserable. May the Lord have mercy upon him and upon us.
After that evening, I went home to my wife and children and as usual we prayed together. I asked them to pray especially for our brother Peter and for our souls. We all prayed for Peter whose soul was humiliated by his love to the world and its vain riches. In the morning, as I was walking near the tax collecting office, I saw Peter there. I went to ask him for alms. He became angry and started to curse and swear at me. I didnít know what to do. I raised my heart to my Lord Jesus Christ saying, "Lord Jesus, help that man and help my weakness."
As I was in that state, Peter's servant came to bring him his breakfast. Peter took a loaf of bread, broke a piece and threw it over my head. I took the piece of bread from the ground, kissed it, thanked him while he continued to call me names and left.
On my way, I went to the churchyard. I stood there and lifted up my heart and prayed. I donít remember what I said more than "Lord Jesus, help Peter as Youíre his Father. You alone love him."
The next day, I didnít know what had happened. We (my fellow beggars and I) were passing by Peter; he was kind to us without limits. Since then he used to gather us in his house and be generous to us. All of a sudden he disappeared and we didnít know where he went.
Itís him, Peter, how did he become a slave? I donít believe my eyes, how did he come here? The man got hold of himself, stood up from his chair, went towards the slave and whispered in his ear, "Arenít you my master Peter from Alexandria?"
The slave said words, which the host could not hear. The man hugged the slave and started to kiss him. The owner of the house looked very surprised, not knowing what was happening. The slave excused himself, realizing that the owner of the palace would know his story and tell everyone; he escaped right away. He took a boat back to Alexandria and from there he went to the wilderness.
In the wilderness, the slave met one of the fathers the monks, kissed his hands saying, "Peace be with you father."
"Peace be with you son. Who brought you here?"
"Father, I heard about the life in the wilderness and my soul longed to leave the world and come here to worship Him Who loved me. I want to be among you, learn from you and be a servant to you."
"Son, it isnít an easy life here. We live in a desolate land, work for our living and eat dry bread, few beans and some vegetables. The battle in the wilderness is hard; the gate is narrow and the cross is heavy. Many came here and after a short while they found how harsh the life was and left back to the world."
"Father, Iíve great hopes in the love of Jesus. Heíll help me. Donít discourage me. Test me and Iím sure that the grace of my Master and your prayer will support me. Please donít send me back."
As the father realized the determination of the slave he started asking him about his life. The slave agreed to tell his story after the father had promised not to reveal it before his death. The slave said:
I was a tax collector in Alexandria. I was miserly and loved money greatly. Yes, I worshipped it, had an unmerciful heart and never responded to the tears of an old man, pleading of a woman or the cries of a child.
Many a home I destroyed and many an elder I insulted, I canít remember. Many men and women sold their children in order to pay me the taxes. I worked day and night to record the taxes and write down the names of those who didnít pay them. People used to escape from me and feel bad when they looked at me.
I was always anxious and thinking about the money I should collect. I was a miserable man who tortured others and tortured myself even more than I did to them. One night, which Iíll never forget, I put off the light and tried to sleep, but figures filled my thoughts and I couldnít sleep at all. Finally, with great agony, I sighed and cried, "Lord, donít deny me sleep which all the animals enjoy."
After a short while, I donít know whether I slept or was still awake; I found myself very hungry. I saw a very large table full of food and as I hurried to eat from it, someone who guarded the table prevented me. As I pleaded, he allowed me to eat from one dish, which he gave me. As I held the plate gladly, I found in it the piece of bread, which I threw over the head of a beggar on that day.
I woke up terrified and started to cry. Then I started to pray. It was the first time in my life to pray and without anyone teaching me how to pray. I was repeating the phrase, "Lord teach me how to love You. Lord grant me a kind heart."
In the morning, as I decided to make an act of mercy, I hurried to the church where I met one of the priests who was surprised to see me with tears in my eyes. He asked me about what had happened. I kissed his hands and said to him, "Iíd sinned against God. I destroyed the lives of many people. I loved the world from all my heart and now I ask you to pray for me. I only want my Lord Jesus."
The priest encouraged me, raised his hand with the cross in it and prayed over my head as I was crying bitterly. I left the church to do as my father the priest instructed me. I went to the prison house and paid money for all those I imprisoned and for all the children who were sold by their parents to pay me the taxes. I looked for the poor and tried to help them as much as I could. I went to my work to do my job honestly. I didnít ask anyone for more than what should be paid. I decided not to keep any money from which I collected unjustly. To say the truth, I felt extremely happy. Here, the eyes of the slave were filled with the tears of joy and were unable to speak to the father the monk. He crossed himself with the sign of the cross and said, "Glory be to the Merciful Shepherd of our souls Who looks after every son of His.Ē
The slave continued his story saying, "One day as I was walking in the market place, I saw someone shivering, so I took off my coat and covered him. That night, in a dream, I saw my Lord Jesus walking in the cold putting on my coat. I hurried to Him saying, "Lord, how do You accept to put on the coat of a sinner like me, and who gave it to You?" The Lord replied, "Son, whatever you do to anyone of those poor people, you do it to Me."
I got up with great joy with praises in my mouth and I was repeating, "Jesus put on my coat. Let me give Him everything." As I gave away to the poor all the money which I collected unjustly and cruelly, I didnít know what else to give them. After a while, I went to one of my slaves whom I had set free, gave him money and asked him, "Sir, Iím your servant, would you promise me to do as I ask you?"
He promised. I told him about what I saw in my dream the night before. I told him that I wanted to offer the Lord myself as I had offered Him my coat. I asked him for the sake of his promise to take me to the market place and sell me as a slave and give the money to my brethren the poor. The man cried a lot and tried not to fulfil his promise and as I insisted, I changed my clothes and he sold me as a slave.
I went away to Rome with my master who bought me. The Lord gave me grace in his eyes until he treated me as a friend. One day, one of my old friends came to visit my master and as he saw me he embraced me and asked me why I came to Rome. I didnít tell him anything but escaped from the vainglory.
"Father, here I am between your hands, accept me as your servant.Ē
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