2017-02-26 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. “Make the effort.” AUDIO RECORDING INCLUDED.
Sunday, February 26, 2017. Homily. Father François Beyrouti.
“Make the effort.”
Cheese Fare – Forgiveness Sunday.
Epistle: Romans 13:11-14:4.
Prokimenon (Tone 3)
Sing praise to our God, sing praise! Sing praise to our King, sing praise!
Stichon: All you peoples, clap your hands! Shout to God with cries of gladness.
Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans
Brethren, now our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe. The night is far advanced: the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk becomingly as in daytime, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, pay no attention to its lusts. But whoever is weak in faith, receive him without arguing about opinion. For one believes he may eat all things but another who is weak, let him eat vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who does not; and let not the one who does not eat judge the one who does, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls but he will stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Alleluia (Tone 3)
In you, O lord, I have hoped: let me never be put to shame.
In your Justice, save me and deliver me.
Stichon: Be for me a protecting God, a sheltering house to save me.
Gospel of Cheese-Fare Sunday, Matthew 6:14-21.
The Lord said, “If you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men there offenses, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses. And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, who disfigure their faces in order to appear to men as fasting. Amen I say to you they have had their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not be seen by men to fast, but by your Father, who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where worm and rodent consume, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither worm nor rodent consumes, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.”
When I was in high school I made somewhere between very little effort to absolutely no effort to do well in class. Sports and socializing were a far higher priority at the time. Of course my grades at the end of the year reflected that minimal effort.
It was an absolute miracle that I even made it into University.
Before my first day of class I decided that I not only need to make some effort but that I need to put my greatest effort to do well and to learn something in the process.
If I had not made a specific effort to study there is no way I would have lasted more than a few months. The good news is that I not only lasted a few months but ended up getting a few degrees and within ten years even started teaching at a University. None of this would have been possible without effort.
There are some things in life that do not require any effort. For example, we have ten fingers even though we don’t make an effort to make sure they are there every morning. If we thought about our fingers more often we will never have eleven. The number of our fingers does not require any effort but education does.
As we start our 40 days fasting in preparation for Easter. The Church reminds us that we should make an effort to prepare for the major feasts of the year, especially Easter.
As we fast, we should make great effort at two levels.
The first kind of effort is to be aware of what we eat and drink. The traditional fast from Monday to Friday consists of not eating or drinking anything from midnight until noon and to not eat meat, fish, or dairy products every day from tomorrow until Easter Sunday. It is not meant to see how tough we are nor is it meant to impress ourselves or others. Although we can modify this slightly, we should keep as much of this fast as possible. Like studying, fasting requires great effort.
Fasting from certain kinds of food and drinks should lead us to the second important aspect of our preparations for Easter; that is the spiritual dimension.
We need to keep in mind that we have a body and a soul that we need to take care of and whose needs we have to keep balanced. It is important to have a healthy diet but more important to have healthy emotions.
This healthy balance is actually behind the name of the running shoe brand ASICS. A.S.I.C.S is an acronym of the Latin phrase “anima sana in corpore sano” which translates as “a healthy soul in a healthy body.”
The balance between our body and soul actually defines not only our maturity but our humanity. We cannot call ourselves mature if we cannot control what we eat and we cannot call ourselves mature if we cannot control our temper.
That is why the readings today remind us that fasting from food should make us more aware of our emotions towards what we eat. This helps us grow in our awareness of what we feel, what we say, and how we act. When we have better control over these aspects of our life we grow in our maturity and identity, which is much more important than whether we gain or lose a few pounds.
Saint Paul tells us: “Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;  let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:12-14).
Saint Paul specifically tells us to set aside certain things in our life that are making us less than what we should be and pick up the virtues to grow in all that we can be.
Today’s Gospel focuses on the importance of forgiveness in our spiritual journey. Saint Matthew says: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;  but if you do not forgive their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Today’s readings encourage us to believe in a better version of our self than what we have often settled for. We too often repeat lies to ourselves: “I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not worthy enough, or other false “enoughs.”
Jesus reminds us that we are good enough, smart enough, and worthy enough, but can be even more with great effort and without effort we will inevitably become much less than what we have potential to be.
This kind of discipline that is aware that we need to grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually needs effort. Just as we cannot live a health physical life without effort, so too we cannot live a healthy spiritual life without effort.
There is no such thing as a default spirituality. We don’t just become good, then put our lives in cruise control. A healthy journey of faith requires a daily assessment of our thoughts, words, and actions. And when we realize that who we have become because of our anger or resentment is much lower than what God wants us to be we are called to change our ways and remember that God is our merciful father who helps us in our journey of faith.
We should take this time of fasting seriously and not dismiss that success in every aspect of our lives requires effort.
We all enjoy food and all the other good things around us. Fasting reminds us that these can only bring us a limited amount of happiness. The greater good is who we are, how we relate with others, and how healthy our relationship with God is.
Let’s take our fast seriously and remind ourselves every day that Jesus said: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
My cell phone: 714-914-1710
New Holy Cross Church YOUTUBE Clip posted on September 13, 2016: www.youtube.com/HolyCrossMelkite
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24