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The Season of the Holy Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
 
 John 12:20-32
Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
 
Abouna Charbel’s Homily on “Christ the King”
Today is the Feast of Christ the King.  It is the final Sunday of the Maronite Liturgical Year.  Next week, we begin a new Liturgical Year with the Sunday of the Consecration of the Church.  If there were one last sermon to preach, one last time to tell the story, what would one say?
Love one another as I have loved you.  Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.  Our religion is about love.  There are no good excuses not to love.  We cannot be true christians if we do not give up our hate, our indifference, our coldness.  If being busy gets in the way of love, it’s still not an acceptable excuse.  In imitation of the shining example of our ancestors in Lebanon, we have been taught the art of being affectionate, warm and hospitable.  Let us not give up these way.  
 
There is a wonderful story which is a sort of lesson on patience.  A NYC Taxi driver wrote:
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
box filled with photos and glassware.
‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
through downtown?’
‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..
‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice..’The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired.Let’s go now’.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.
‘Nothing,’ I said
‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.
‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
 
There is a story I’d like to share but it’s a bit gruesome, in some sense.  And I’m almost certain it’s not a true story.  But it has become a legend; it has remained and has been told for many centuries because it somehow communicates a very powerful message.
 
The noble Constantine, Emperor of Rome, was in the full flower of his age, goodly to look upon, strong and happy, when a great and sudden affliction came upon him. Constantine withdrew himself from his lords, gave up all use of arms, abandoned his imperial duties, and shut himself in his palace, where he lived such a secluded life, and all men throughout the empire talked of his illness and prayed to their gods to heal him. When everything seemed to be in vain, Constantine summoned all the doctors, learned men, and physicians from every realm to Rome, that they might consider his illness and try if any cure could be found for his malady. They sat in silence, till at last one very old and very wise man, a great physician from Arabia, arose and said: “Let the Emperor dip himself in a full bath of the blood of infants and children, seven years old or under, and he shall be healed, and his leprosy shall fall from him; for this malady is not natural to his body, and it demands an unnatural cure.”
 
Constantine refused to this abominable remedy and the story goes, he was granted the gift of conversion because he did not use his kingship to put himself above others, especially the most helpless.
 
What about us?  We are not kings but don’t we often, unlike Constantine, and ultimately unlike our Lord, we put ourselves before others, perhaps just with our silence, because it is expedient, because we think we deserve more than they do.  Other people must suffer and not receive my help or support because I’m more important than them or what I’m doing (as husband bringing in money) is more important.
 
Do we not resort today to many of the same barbarities. In the modern debate over embryonic stem cells, the chief argument used for the destruction of these tiny human lives is their power to cure other diseases.  The same goes for abortion and In Vitro Fertilization.  When we resort to such barbarities, are we not like the “learned men” and “physicians” who proposed that Constantine bathe in the blood of infants?  How often do we mistreat people because we feel we have a priority and a right to things which they so desperately need but which we refuse them because we feel we are more worthy.
 
The Lord Jesus was a King who expressed his concern for the sick and suffering, at a time when kings were even ready to sacrifice thousands as a remedy for their illness.  The kings of the world did everything to cure themselves, but Jesus did everything to heal others. 

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