2017-03-19 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Develop your athletic spiritual strength. AUDIO RECORDING INCLUDED.
Develop your athletic spiritual strength. Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Sunday, March 19, 2017.
Third Sunday of Lent. Sunday of the Holy Cross.
Epistle of the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Hebrews 4:14-5:6
Prokimenon (Tone 6)
O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance!
Stichon: To you, O Lord, I have called: O my Rock, be not deaf to me!
Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews.
Brethren, since we have a great high priest who has passed into the heavens, let us hold fast out profession of faith. For we have not a high priest unable to pity our weaknesses, but one tried as we are in all things, save sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in matters pertaining to God, so that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to have compassion on the ignorant and erring, because he himself also is beset with weakness, and therefore must make offerings for sin in his own behalf as in behalf of the people. And no one invests himself with this honor: only one who is called by God takes it, as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify himself with the high priesthood, but glorified the One who had spoken to him, “You are my son, I this day have begotten you (Ps. 2:7). “As he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek (Ps. 109:4).”
Alleluia (Tone 6). Remember your congregation which you have acquired from the beginning: you redeemed the scepter of your inheritance.
Stichon: God is our King forever: he brought about salvation in the midst of the earth.
Gospel of the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Mark 8: 34-9:1 (Taking up the daily cross)
The Lord said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who would save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake and for the sake of Good News will save it. For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes with the holy angels in the glory of his Father.” And he said to them, “Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God coming in power.”
Failure is easy but success requires hard work.
The determination and passion of athletes is a good example for us of how hard work and perseverance pays off.
For example, Steve Young is a legendary quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers, but he wasn’t born a super star. Although he was the star of his high school football team, he entered university as the 8th string quarterback. That means 7 other quarterbacks would play before him. This is not exactly a position to envy. He was so far down on the list, the coach put him on a unit of the least valuable players whose main role was to help the better players practice. He felt humiliated going from high school fame to one of the lowest ranked players in university.
One day he called his father and said: “Coaches don’t know my name. I’m just a big tackling dummy for the defense. Dad, it’s horrible and this is just not what I expected. I’d like to come home.”
Steve’s father who he describes as the ultimate “tough guy” told him “you can quit, but you can’t come home because I’m not going to live with a quitter. You’ve known that since you were a kid. You are not coming back here.” So Steve had no choice but to stay.
He took his father’s words not as a rejection but as an encouragement. Steve knew his father believed in him and he began to work even harder to honor that.
All season he was first to arrive at practice and last to leave. He also increased his private practice time and in two months did squats and threw over 10,000 spirals into a net.
His hard work resulted in major improvements in his skills. So much so that in his sophomore year he moved from number 8 quarterback to number 2, in his junior year, he became the starting quarterback, and in his senior year he received the Davey O’Brian award (1983) for the most outstanding quarterback in the country.
For Steve, this was only the beginning. During his professional career he was twice named the most valuable player (1992, 1994), he won three Super Bowl championships (XXIII, XXIV, XXIX), and at Super Bowl 29 (XXIX) in 1995, he was named the most valuable player.
In addition to all this, when he retired he was the highest rated quarterback in NFL history.
If he had quit and if his father did not believe in him and allowed him to quit none of this would have been possible.
Yes indeed, failure is easy but success requires hard work.
Today is the mid-point of Lent and we have three more weeks until Palm Sunday. In addition to celebrating Jesus’s crucifixion on Good Friday, we also reflect on the important role of the cross in our lives on September 15, the feast of the exaltation of the Cross, and today the third Sunday of Lent that we call the “Sunday of the veneration of the cross.”
Although the cross was for the Romans the most painful and humiliating way of putting someone to death, it became for us Christians a sign of Jesus’s love for us and a sign of honor. Saint Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Every one of us is going through something difficult right now, but the cross reminds us not to lose hope but to gain hope from our Lord who gives us strength in our most difficult trials.
We can reword the dialogue between Steve and his father to reflect our own situation: “God, life’s difficult: school, my marriage, my family, and my work are not what I expected. I want to quit and go home.”
Then on the other side of the telephone God will answer us: “You can quit but you can’t come home.” He says this not because He doesn’t want us home, but because he gave us a special mission to accomplish before we go home.
God put each and every one of us here for a purpose. He has a specific plan. Despite whatever difficulties we may have, it is now time to lift up our heads, look at the cross, draw strength from the words and life of our savior, and be confident in our mission as His disciples.
Unfortunately too often we see the cross as decoration rather than as a commitment of God’s love to us and our love for Him.
Pope Francis recently spoke about the importance of the cross. He said “The Christian Cross is not a furnishing for the house or an ornament to wear, but a call to the love with which Jesus sacrificed himself to save humanity from evil and from sin” (March 12, 2017. L’Osservatore Romano 2017-03-13. News.va).
Pope Francis did not say we shouldn’t wear a cross, but that we should understand why we wear one. He further added: “Let us make sure that the Cross marks the stages of our Lenten journey in order to increasingly understand the severity of sin and the value of the sacrifice with which the Redeemer has saved us.”
The feast of the veneration of the cross reminds us that we don’t simply endure the cross, but we venerate it and lovingly embrace it.
We can ask ourselves today: “Has the cross become for us merely a logo, like Nike or Under Armor, or is it a commitment to a different perspective on life?”
Saint Paul tells us that we should draw hope and strength from the cross. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
Sometimes people ask “Why is God allowing me to suffer?” When we embrace the power of the cross we learn to ask a better question: “How is God with me in my suffering?”
As Easter approaches when we celebrate Jesus’s death and resurrection, today is a great opportunity for us to get rid of the default settings on the living of our Christian faith. Look at the cross around your neck or on your wall and renew your commitment to follow Jesus specifically in the difficult areas of our life. Are you in physical pain, welcome Jesus to be with you in that struggle? Can your relationship with your family be better, then welcome Jesus to bless your family and recommit yourselves to be his disciples every day.
Steve’s father said: “You can quit but you can’t come home” and Jesus echoes this same verse to us today. He not only knows the gifts that He put in us, but He also died on the cross to show us that He has committed himself to strengthen us and see us through any physical, emotional, or spiritual trial we may be facing.
Today we venerate the cross, we recommit ourselves to the cross, and we are also grateful that the pain and suffering of the cross ultimately leads to the joy of the resurrection.
Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
My cell phone: 714-914-1710
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24