There was a man that had three friends, then came a messenger from the king to call upon him. And when he asked this man to go with him to meet the King, the man became baffled and confused, and said to the messenger, “I have a very dear friend whom I love very much, to an extent I cannot describe, let me go to him and ask him to come with me, because I am frightened and scared from my presence in front of the King without anyone at my side.” So this man went to his friend and asked and begged him to come along, but the friend answered, “You will not get any help from me, and I will not go with you, not even for one step.” The man was shocked and told his friend, “You unfaithful friend, how can you betray me like this, I who loved you and was very keen on calling you, I who suffered the heat of the summer, the cold of the winter, the travel in the seas, and climbing the mountains to get you, and after all that, you are useless to me when I needed you the most.” So when the man was rejected by his first friend, which is the money and wealth, he went to seek his second friend, his beloved family and relatives But they (his family and relatives) also rejected him saying, “We cannot go with you as we are waiting for our messenger who is going to ask us to go with him as he did with you.” So the man started blaming his mother saying, “How is it that you, my beloved mother, carried me inside of you for nine months and raised me for months and years, and now you are going to leave me alone with this messenger who accepts no bribes. And how is it that you, my beloved wife, with whom we became together one body and one soul, and you my beloved children who are the closest to my heart, would abandon me and let me go alone and make the grave my home. You, my relatives and beloved ones. How can you not be of any help when I go to stand in front of the king who called me.” So as the man lost his hope in his two friends, he came to the third one with whom he had very brief relationship, and the man said to him, “My friend, I have no right to ask you anything as I have done so little to our friendship and I was always indifferent about loving you. But there is a fearful and frightening messenger that came and wants to take me to the king, and I am greatly troubled and in a big fear to stand before the king.” And this third friend who represents the good deeds which the man did during his lifetime answered saying, “Do not tremble or be fearful, I will go alongside you to the king and defend you, and all what comes upon you from hardship I will bear instead.”
So, when he heard this, the man became in great sorrow and dejection, and blamed himself deeply for his shortcomings and indifference over the years in knowing this good friend and strengthening his relationship with him. And then the man asked this friend saying, “Can you let this frightening messenger go and leave me here so that I can do the best I can for you and spend my time, thoughts, and efforts to become your companion and stop caring about my other friends who are of no good, love, mercy, or help to me. Because I was in great fear, but now I am in peace and tranquillity due to your presence.” And this merciful friend answered him saying, “That can never be, anyone who gets called, this messenger will not have pity, mercy, or sorrow for him, not even for a minute. So your request is out of the question, go and I will be with you.”
So now my brethren who are gathered in this holy church, have you heard that nothing will do anyone good, not his money, his children, nor his family, but only your good deeds in front of God.
By: St Shenouda the Archimandrite
Trans: Ashraf Hanna
(Translation from an Arabic sermon read during lent. From St. Shenouda Coptic Quarterly Newsletter 1.1, 1.2)