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2017-03-05 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Fast to Live. AUDIO RECORDING INCLUDED.

Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Fast to Live. Sunday, March 5, 2017.

First Sunday of Great Lent. Sunday of Orthodoxy.

Epistle of the 1st Sunday of Lent (Hebrews 11:24-26; 32-40; 12:1-2)
Prokimenon (Tone 4)
Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our fathers, and your name is worthy of praise and glorious forever.
Stichon: For you are just in all you have done to us, and all your works are true and your ways right.  

A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews
Brethren, by faith Moses, when he was grown up, denied he was a son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Cf. Ex, 2: 11) ― choosing to be afflicted with God’s people rather than to have the enjoyment of sin for a time, estimating the indignities suffered by Christ to be of greater value than the Egyptians’ treasures (Cf. Ex. 2:32): for he was considering the reward.  By faith he left Egypt not fearing the king’s wrath: for he persevered as if he were seeing the One who cannot be seen.  By faith, he celebrated the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the one who destroyed the first-born might not touch these.  By faith, they passed through the Red Sea, as through dry land ― whereas the Egyptians attempting it were swallowed up.  By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after people had gone around them for seven days.  By faith, Rahab the prostitute who had received the spies in peace did not perish with the unbelievers. And what more shall I say? For time will be too short to speak of Gideon, of Barac, of Samson, of Jephthe, of David and of Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained the fulfillment of promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, recovered strength from weakness, became valiant in battle routed foreign armies. Women had their dead restored to them through resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to yield for their release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others again suffered mockery and blows, even chains and jailing.  They were stoned, cut to pieces, put to the question, killed by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, distressed, afflicted (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground. And none of these, despite the positive witnessing of faith, received what was promised, for God had something better in store for us, so that they were not to reach their final perfection without us. 

Alleluia (Tone 4).
Moses and Aaron were among his priests and Samuel among those who called upon his name.
Stichon: They called upon the Lord, and he answered them; from the pillar of cloud he spoke to them. 

Gospel of the 1st Sunday of Lent,  John 1:43-51 (Call of  Nathanael)
   At that time Jesus was about to leave for Galilee, and he found Philip.  And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and said of him, “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no guile!” Nathanael said to him, “Where do you know me from?” Jesus answered him and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him and said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are King of Israel.”  Answering, Jesus said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, you believe.  Greater things than these shall you see.”  And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” 

Homily. 

I have a theory that if you fast from certain kinds of food, like meat or dairy, or if you decide to give up something else for Lent, like chocolate or music, you will not die instantaneously.

I’m not sure if this theory is accurate or not so I need your help.

Please raise your if you died because you did not eat meat, because you did not eat chocolate, because you did not drink coffee, or because you gave up something else?

Even if you died because you gave up some of the things you like to eat or do, the fact that you’re alive now is a miracle and a testament to the importance of fasting.

Fasting is difficult because it goes against a lifestyle of excess that we have become used to.

We want a bigger car, more clothes, more expensive food, and more of absolutely everything around us, so why bother taking time to eat or want less?

Let me read from the following piece called “The Paradox of our Time.”

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.”

This is why this time of preparation for Easter is so important to help us better appreciate the things we have and to realize that less is sometimes more.

Yes, it is definitely inconvenient to give up something for Lent, but today’s readings help us to put our Lenten sacrifices in perspective.

Today’s first reading from the letter to the Hebrews speaks about faith in a way that is concrete. We sometimes think that faith is only something we feel. We definitely should feel the joy of our faith, but more than just a feeling it is something we choose and something we live in a very real and practical way.

Today’s epistle speaks about the faith of Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barac, Samson, Jephthe, David, Samuel, the prophets, and others. We can look at the difficulty of their lives if we have a hard time giving something up for 40 days, praying more, or helping others.

The letter to the Hebrews tells us: “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. [37] They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated -- [38] of whom the world was not worthy -- wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38).

We shouldn’t want to suffer, but we also should not be afraid of life’s discomforts and inconveniences. Fasting also helps us prioritize the things we think are important. When we wake up what is the first thing we think about? Are we first thinking about what we are going to eat or about giving thanks to God for the blessings of our life?

Fasting helps us re-arrange our priorities to remind us that we should be hungry for the word of God, for justice, and for holiness more than we should be hungry for that steak. That is why we should never think of Lent as a time that we are inconveniencing ourselves by not eating or doing something, but rather as a time that we are re-organizing our priorities to make sure that growing in our faith is more important than our diet.

I’ll read a few more verses from “The Paradox of our Time.” “We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life, we've added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've learned to rush, but not to wait.”

We call this first Sunday of lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy or the Sunday of the icons. The word icon means “image.” As we start our fast it is important for us to keep in mind that we were created in the image and likeness of God. We do not have to worry about our image because God already created us in His image.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells Philip “follow me.” This should be our priority in life that is above what we eat or how we look. If we live in a big or small house, drive a new or old car, or if our refrigerator is full or empty may change how others view us, but these do not change the image that God has of us. Our image is not based on how much money we have but whether we choose to follow Jesus every day of our life.

Fasting may seem difficult but when we fast with this spirit of wanting to become more faithful followers of Jesus we will experience great personal rewards.

The irony is that we fear we might die if we give something up for Lent. In reality, if we don’t have self-control, if we don’t pray, if we don’t forgive, if we don’t reach out to the poor and needy, we actually are not living.

This is why we fast. We want to become less attached to what is passing and more attached to a fuller life with others and God.

Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA     92870-4537
Church: 714-985-1710
My cell phone: 714-914-1710
www.HolyCrossMelkite.org
New Holy Cross Church YOUTUBE Clip posted on September 13, 2016: www.youtube.com/HolyCrossMelkite
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“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

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