2016-09-04 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. We are all called to be saints like Mother Teresa.

Sunday, September 4, 2016. Homily. Father François Beyrouti.
We are all called to be Saints like Mother Teresa.

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30
The lord told this parable: “A man going abroad, called his servants and handed over his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his particular ability, and then he went on his journey.  And he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more.  In like manner, he who had received the two gained two more.  But he who had received the one went away and dug in the earth and hid his master’s money.  Then after a long time the master of the those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came and brought five other talents saying, “Master, thou didst hand over to me five talents; behold, I have gained five others in addition.”  His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; because you has been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your master.”  And he also who had received two talents came and said, “Master, you did hand over to me two talents; behold, I have gained two more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; because you has been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your master.” But he who had received the one talent came and said, “Master, I know that you are a stern man; you reap where you has not winnowed; and as I was afraid, I went away and hid your talent in the earth; behold, thou hast what is thine.”  But his master answered and said to him, “Wicked and slothful servant! You did know that I reap where I do not sow, and gather where I have not winnowed.  Thou shouldst therefore have entrusted my money to the bankers, and on my return I should have got back my own with interest.  Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him who does not have, even that which he seems shall be taken away.  But as for the unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  And who has ears to hear let him hear. 

We are sometimes very negative about the moral state of the world and regret that people are not as good as we would like them to be.

Despite some negative aspects of society, God repeatedly sends us exceptional men and women to show us that His light always shines bright amidst our challenges and difficulties.

For example, Mother Teresa lived with some of the poorest and despised people in the world in conditions that are far below what all of us are used to. Yet the light of Christ within her radiated to all those she ministered to and throughout the whole world. When she was alive everyone recognized her as a saint and on Sunday, September 4, 2016 (this morning) at the Vatican, Pope Francis canonized her and officially declared her a “saint.”

The word “saint” simply means “holy.” These two words appear in the Bible over 900 times to refer to clothing, tents, buildings, a place, the Sabbath, or the ground.

For example, God tells Moses: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

The Bible also uses the words ‘saint’ and ‘holy’ to refer to God, a group of gathered people, a nation, and to all of us.

When Saint Paul addresses the various communities, he frequently calls the people who gather to pray and hear the word of God ‘saints.’ In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans he says: “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

Therefore although we are all “holy” and “saints” in God’s eyes, the Catholic process of declaring someone a saint goes a step further. After a person dies, the Church sets up a special commission to study their life, to interview people who knew them, and to wait for at least two verifiable miracles to confirm that a person should be officially given the title “saint” in order to be recognized as “holy” by everyone.

In addition to Mother Teresa’s exceptional life, after she died miracles have been attributed to her intercession. For example, in 2002, an Indian woman had cancer of the abdomen and was fully healed after praying to Mother Teresa and in 2008 a Brazilian man suddenly woke up from a coma caused by a viral brain infection when his wife prayed to Mother Teresa. He fully recovered and returned to work as a mechanical engineer.

These miracles were well documented by doctors who looked at the medical records before and after the recovery and confirmed that the healing was truly miraculous and not something that science could explain.

After reading all the reports very carefully and the testimony of people who knew her, Pope Francis found that there was overwhelming evidence for the Church to start calling her, Saint Mother Teresa. Pope Francis once joked: “I would have been afraid to have had her as my superior, since she was so tough.”

We often overlook that the saints lived a tough life and were themselves tough because they did not base their lives and actions on personal convenience but on an unwavering commitment to God.

Saint Mother Theresa once said: “God does not ask us to be successful. He asks us to be faithful.” She indeed was faithful to God since she was very young.

By the age of 12 she felt committed to religious life and in 1928, when she was only 18 years old, went to Ireland to become a nun with the Loreto Sisters. She studied English for a year and then was sent to India. She did further studies there and began to teach at a private school run by the Loreto Sisters.

On September 10, 1946, when she was 36 years old, she was travelling on a train and was very moved by all the poor people she saw. She experienced what she described as “a call within a call” to serve the poorest of the poor. After this event she received special permission to leave her convent to dedicate her life to picking up people from the streets, and sometimes even children from the garbage, to take care of them and share with them God’s love.

Although she became very famous for her work she remained humble and would always say: “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” Wouldn’t it be great if we all felt this way?

Mother Teresa even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and in her acceptance speech she emphasized that in addition to food the poor need dignity.

She said: “Our poor people are great people, are very lovable people, they don’t need our pity and sympathy, they need our understanding love. They need our respect; they need that we treat them with dignity. And I think this is the greatest poverty that we experience, that we have in front of them who may be dying for a piece of bread, but they die to such dignity. I never forget when I brought a man from the street. He was covered with maggots; his face was the only place that was clean. And yet that man, when we brought him to our home for the dying, he said just one sentence: I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, love and care, and he died beautifully.”

In that same speech she also told this very moving story about how generous the poor can be.

“One evening a gentleman came to our house and said, there is a Hindu family and the eight children have not eaten for a long time. Do something for them. And I took rice and I went immediately, and there was this mother, those little one’s faces, shining eyes from shear hunger. She took the rice from my hand, she divided into two and she went out. When she came back, I asked her, where did you go? What did you do? And one answer she gave me: They are hungry also. She knew that the next door neighbor, a Muslim family, was hungry. What surprised me most, not that she gave the rice, but what surprised me most, that in her suffering, in her hunger, she knew that somebody else was hungry, and she had the courage to share, share the love.”

The irony of the life of saints is not only that they are holy but that they are able to bring out the holiness of others as well.

My faith and vocation were personally effected by Saint Mother Theresa. On Sunday, May 29, 1988 I saw her speak to over 17,000 people in a large stadium. I was in grade 11 at the time and searching, like many others, for direction and answers to the big questions of life. I remember being profoundly moved the second I saw her. When she started speaking, everything she said made so much sense and you could feel her love for God, for others, and for what she was doing.

This was one of the most amazing days in my life as her words contradicted every other message we are daily bombarded with. We want joy in wealth but she spoke about joy in poverty. We want daily pleasure but she spoke about daily sacrifice. We worry about what people think of us but she was speaking about what God expects of us.

The crucial point for me was that the daily joys, pleasures, and glamor that we seek can bring us only temporary happiness but letting go of these to serve God can bring us a deeper and longer lasting happiness.

Pope Francis did not canonize Saint Mother Teresa to tell us that she is better than us but to remind us that the world is a better place because of her and that the world can be an even better place when we take our faith seriously.

She did great things but she lived a simple life. One of her favorite Scriptural verses was from the first letter of Peter: “as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15. Cf. Leviticus 20:26)

She would say this all the time: “be holy.”

The true miracle of the life of Saint Mother Teresa and all the saints is that they remind us that God created us holy and He calls us to live that holiness in everything we do.

When we do that we will never be negative about bad things that are happening in the world but will have an exceptional joy that the same gift of the Holy Spirit that God gave to Saint Mother Teresa He has also given to us.

She definitely had a difficult life, but she responded generously and was fully committed to serving with the gifts that God gave her.

Today, God invites us to be just as committed to serving others with the gifts He has given us so that we can experience the same eternal joy that she and all the saints had.

Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870
(714) 985-1710