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2017-10-01. Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. Barbarism, Civility, or Christianity: which will it be?

Sunday, October 1, 2017. Barbarism, civility, or Christianity: which will it be? Father François Beyrouti. Homily. Second Sunday After the Holy Cross.

Prokimenon (Tone 3) Ps 31:11, 1, p14
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart.
Stichon: Happy are those whose faults are taken away, and whose sins are covered.

A Reading from the Epistle of St, Paul to the Hebrews (9:1-7).
Brethren, the first tabernacle also had ritual ordinances and a sanctuary, though an earthly one. For there was set up a tabernacle in the outer part of which were the lamp-stand and the table and the show-bread, and this is called the Holy Place. But beyond the second veil was the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden censer and the Ark of the Covenant, overlaid on every side with gold. In the ark was a golden vessel containing the manna, and the rod of Aaron which had budded, and the tablets of the covenant and above it were the Cherubim of glory, overshadowing the mercy-seat. But of all these we cannot now speak in detail. Such then being the arrangements, the priests always used to enter into the first tabernacle to perform the sacred rites; but into the second tabernacle, the high priest alone entered once a year, not without blood, which he offered for his own and the people’s sins of ignorance.

Alleluia (Tone 8) Ps. 64:5, Stichon Sirach 44:14, p14
Happy the one you have chosen and adopted: he shall dwell in your courts.
Stichon: And his name shall survive for ever and ever.

The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke the Evangelist (6:31-36).
The Lord said, “Even as you wish men to do to you, so also do you to them. And if you love those who love you, what merit have you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what merit have you? For even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive in return, what merit have you? For even sinners lend to sinners that they may get back as much in return. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, not hoping for any return, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be children of the Most High, for He is kind towards the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, therefore, even as your Father is merciful.”

You’ve probably heard the saying “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Hopefully, you’ve never said it, as this verse is often used by someone who is angry and who wants revenge.

Social chaos results if we live this way:
-If someone rips my shirt I want to rip his shirt,
-If someone slaps me, I want to slap him
-If someone burns my house I want to burn his.
-If someone kills a relative, I want to either kill him or one of his relatives.

Although this thinking is often present in society, it is nothing short of barbaric because I don’t get a new shirt if I rip someone else’s and I don’t get back the life of the one I lost if I take a life.

If we live by insisting on this kind of revenge, we will all end up with no teeth and no eyes because throughout life, not only do others hurt us but unfortunately we also hurt others in so many ways.

There are three attitudes we can have in difficult situations. First is barbarism, second is civility, and third is Christianity. Once again: barbarism, civility, and Christianity.

I gave an example of barbarism above. We are barbaric when our anger leads us to want revenge. If we insist on revenge, then we are living on the opposite spectrum of Christianity.

You may be surprised that the phrase “an eye for an eye” comes from the Bible. Although it is used today as the motto of barbarity and for those who want revenge, it was initially proposed as a way to move society away from barbarity towards civility by making sure that punishments were not arbitrary or excessive.

For example, if someone breaks your pen, you have a right to ask for a new pen, but not the right to ask them to give you a new car or to buy you a house. This is called equity. All civilized societies follow this principle of justice, a pen for a pen, a car for a car, a house for a house. Compensation must always be connected to the item lost and not to the level of anger in the people involved.

This is the full section in Exodus 21:22-27. “When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she loses the child, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. [23] But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, [24] eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, [25] burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

There are two parts to this section. First, if the woman loses the child compensation should be made for the loss of the child. Second, if she also gets hurt, then additional compensation needs to be made.

To show that the phrase “eye for eye” was not meant as a statement of revenge, but rather one that encourages equal compensation, this section goes on to give examples: “[26] When someone strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye. [27] If he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the tooth.”

Note that if a slave owner damages the eye or tooth of a slave, the slave is set free, but does not have a right to pluck out the eye of the one who hurt him. In addition to an emphasis on compensation, this verse also shows that even the powerful have to face the consequences of their actions.

If someone commits an offense or a crime against us, we should want to be compensated but we should never want revenge. Revenge is different than justice. If you hurt someone, you must apologize. If you stole something, you must return it. If you borrowed someone’s money, you must give it back.

If a crime is more serious, then wanting someone behind bars is not revenge, it is civility and assures that the one who does the crime has an opportunity to recognize that what they have done is wrong. Some time in prison also makes sure they do not hurt others for a particular duration of period.

Barbarism is wanting revenge and civility is wanting compensation. The first is always bad, the second is always good, but we are called by Jesus to an even higher level than just the good. That is why Christianity calls us to be at inner peace when dealing with the offenses that others have committed against us. It is only when we have inner peace can we set aside our anger and focus on the forgiveness and mercy that Jesus wants us to live.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to set aside barbarism, go beyond civility, and reach to the heights of Christianity. Everyone has a different criterion for friendships, but Jesus clearly says: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. [33] And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33).

Hating those who love us is barbarism, loving those who love us is civility, loving those who hate or have hurt us is Christianity.

We may know of many great examples of forgiveness. This one is particularly inspiring.

In 1985, Ruth Pelke, a 78-year-old Bible teacher, had been murdered at her home by four teenage girls. Three of the girls received long sentences and one received the death penalty. Ruth’s grandson, Bill Pelke lobbied the court to reverse her sentence and even became an advocate against the death penalty. The family said that their decision to forgive, brought them “tremendous healing.” Ruth’s grandson then requested to meet with the teenage girls. After eight years he was allowed to visit them in prison and he told them “we forgive you.” Bill went even further by offering to help them re-establish their lives after they were released from prison.

What is the purpose of living this way? Jesus answers this question when he says “[36] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

When we are understanding and merciful towards others we are not just being nice, we are reflecting the mercy, forgiveness, and love that God shows us every day. What would happen if God punished us for our every bad thought or action? Not one of us would be left standing.

Jesus not only said nice things, but throughout His life He demonstrated how love, mercy and forgiveness are possible. These are not just theoretical ideas, they are real and can bring us great peace, freedom, and joy.

In our day to day life we have three choices to make when others hurt us. We can be barbaric and want revenge, we can seek justice and compensation, or we can set aside all anger and forgive.

Barbarism, civility, or Christianity: which will it be?

Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
Office: (714) 985-1710
My cell: (714) 914-1710


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