Once lived a hermit who had two disciples. The old man tried hard to help them progress spiritually and become better people, but he had a deep inner concern, not knowing if they had really made any spiritual progress and if they were prepared for the Kingdom of God. He was waiting for a sign from God for them, but did not receive a thing.
One evening he was to attend a vigil in the church of another hermitage, that was at a distance of many hours of walk from their cell.
Because the way was through the desert, the old man sent his two disciples since morning in order to get there early and he was to go later, in the afternoon.
His disciples walked a long way and all of a sudden they heard some moans. Approaching they saw a severely hurt man who was asking for help.
”Take me with you, please”, the injured one told them. ”Here’s desert and nobody passes by.” ”Who would help me?” ”You are two, please lift me up and carry me to the next village!”
”We cannot”, the monks answered. ”We are in a hurry for the vigil.” ”Our starets asked us to get the church ready for it.”
”Please, take me!” ”Don’t leave me die!” ”The wild beast will eat me.”
”We cannot.” ”There is nothing we can do for you, we have to go to our duty.”
And they left. In the afternoon the starets left for the vigil too. He went on the same way as his disciples. Reaching the place where the injured man lied and seeing him, asked him:
”What happened to you, man of God?” ”What’s the matter with you?” ”No one saw you here?”
”In the morning two monks passed by and I asked them to help me, but they didn’t want, saying they were in a hurry, going for the vigil.”
”Don’t worry.” ” I’ll take you”, the starets said.
”You cannot.” ”You are old.” ” You won’t be able to lift me up.”
”No, I’ll take you, I cannot leave you here.”
”I told you, you cannot lift me up”, the injured man insisted.
”I’ll bend down and you’ll climb up my back.” ”And little by little I’ll take you to the nearest village.” ”An inch today and another inch tomorrow and we shall finally get there.”
The old man took him in his back with difficulty and started to walk with wavering steps on the sand. His sweat was flowing down on him like a river. He thought to himself: ”Even if it took me three days, we would get there in the end anyway.” But while walking, he felt that his burden became lighter and lighter, till he didn’t feel anything anymore. Then he turned back to see what was happening. He got stunned seeing an angel before him, who told him:
”God sent me to let you know that your two disciples are not worthy of the Kingdom of God, because they don’t have love.”