2017-04-02 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Be Prepared.
Sunday, April 2, 2017. Be Prepared. Homily. Father François Beyrouti.
Fifth Sunday of Lent. Sunday of our Venerable Mother Mary of Egypt.
PROKIMENON (Tone 8) Ps.75: 12, 2
Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; let all round about bring gifts to the awesome God. Stichon: God is renowned in Judah; in Israel great is his name.
A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews (9:11-14).
BRETHREN, when Christ appeared as the high priest of the good things to come (Cf.Lv.16: 14; 19: 4), he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is, not as a part of the present creation), nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the sanctuary, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ (Cf. Rv. 1:5), who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God!
ALLELUIA (Tone 8)
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Stichon: Let us greet him with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
Gospel. 5th Sunday of Lent, Mark 10: 32-45 (The greatest in the Kingdom)
At that time Jesus took the Twelve, and began to tell them what would happen to him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the Scribes; and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him and scourge him, and put him to death; and on the third day he will rise again.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him, saying, “Master, we want thee to do for us whatever we ask.” But he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said, “Grant to us that we may sit, one at thy right hand and the other at thy left hand, in thy glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink of the cup of which I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized?” And they said to him, “We can.” And Jesus said to them “Of the cup that I drink, you shall drink; and with the baptism with which I am to be baptized, you shall be baptized; but as for sitting at my right hand or at my left, that is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard this, they were at first indignant at James and John. But Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers among the Gentiles I lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wishes to become great shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the slave of all; for the Son of Man also has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In one way or another, you prepared for almost everything you did this week. Before you went to school or work, you prepared your clothes, you prepared what you were going to do, and you even prepared your thoughts to make sure you were in the right frame of mind.
We prepare for a holiday by learning more about the place we are going.
We prepare before we buy a house or car and we even prepare before we go to a sporting event by wearing the colors of our team.
Preparation is such an important part of our life that we not only do things, but we spend so much time preparing to do them. We prepare for everything we consider important.
There is a lot of truth in the saying: “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”
Preparation is also important in the Bible. The early chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark quote the prophet Isaiah 40:3, as they focus on the need to prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
The Gospel of Saint Mark opens in this way: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way;  the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ ” (Mark 1:1-3).
The Old Testament prepared for the New Testament, Saint John the Baptizer prepared for the coming of Jesus, and Jesus prepared us for His death and resurrection.
The Church readings and celebrations are also meant to prepare us. Before we started the fast, there were five weeks set aside to prepare us with important themes of faith, healing, humility, prayer, repentance, and fasting. Then we started the forty day journey of lent, which is also a preparation for Palm Sunday, Holy week, and Easter.
The day before Palm Sunday is called Lazarus Saturday and on this day we read the gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This is meant to prepare us by showing us that if Jesus can raise Lazarus, He can also raise Himself.
Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday prepares us for his entry to Jerusalem in humility on Good Friday to suffer and die on the cross. Then, having followed Jesus throughout his life, the agony of the cross prepares us for the celebration of His glorious resurrection.
The whole Bible and all our prayers are integrated in such a close way that they are meant to prepare for the following event, which then prepares us for the next event.
That is why it is important to prepare ourselves not only on Sunday before we come to Church, but every day as we work to grow spiritually.
Our daily prayer life should focus on three simultaneous directions: past, present, and future.
We pray every day to remind ourselves to thank God for all the blessings we received, all the blessings we are receiving, and all the blessings we will receive.
Prayer shows we are grateful for the past and the present. It also shows we are preparing for the blessings that God will give us. Prayer reminds us that, regardless of what has happened, is happening, or will happen, we always have firm confidence that God is with us and strengthening us.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus prepares his 12 disciples for His suffering, death, and resurrection. They missed that He was also preparing them for their own suffering and death.
Jesus tells them: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles;  and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.”
This was too much for the disciples to understand: delivered, condemned, mocked, killed, and rise. Jesus prepared them for the full range of emotions, but they were not thinking of what Jesus said. Rather they were thinking of their own future comfort.
They did not ask Jesus how He was feeling and they did not ask what they could do. Rather in a very stark and selfish way, James and John said: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37).
Jesus then tells them: “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:39-40).
The importance of the contrast between what Jesus was saying and what the apostles were expecting is enormous and shows us the need to slow down, listen, and prepare.
Careful preparation should be an important part of our spiritual life. How long do we prepare for a meeting, a holiday, a trip, a game, or a test? And how long do we prepare for Church?
If we prepare for a test we will get the right answers and if we don’t we will leave most questions blank. When Jesus spoke, it seems like the apostles were blank. They missed it, but that’s what happens when we don’t prepare. What more of Jesus’ message could we be getting if we prepared?
Our private prayers and our prayer together as a community are not meant to be a formality. These are not something we do to say that we prayed, got it done, and are now moving on to something else. Sometimes we treat our prayer life as if we’re doing God a favor, rather than as an opportunity to thank God for His many favors.
Next week we have prayers on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday to prepare us for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. Do your best to attend at least one. If for whatever reason you can’t, prepare in some other way by reading either one of the Gospels or at least the last few chapters. Read them slowly, prayerfully, and reflect on what Jesus wants to say to you in your life.
As we welcome many guests in the next few weeks, let us try our best to arrive on time and keep a sense of prayer. This is definitely an exciting time of year, but more than anything else it should be a prayerful time that helps us reflect on what we are doing, show gratitude to God, and recommit ourselves to follow Him in every aspect of our life.
Now is the time to prepare ourselves for this most holy time of year. It is also the time to prepare ourselves for the fruits of our increased prayer. Regardless of whether you fasted or not, try to prepare every day during these next few weeks in some way.
Jesus loves us so much, He was willing to die and rise for us. He also invites us to love Him with our whole mind, body, and soul. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
How prepared are we to celebrate His death and resurrection? How we prepared are we during this time of year to grow in our love for our savior? How prepared are we to receive this love and live it?
How we answer these questions will also determine, how prepared we are to be true followers of our crucified and risen saviour.
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