2017-10-22. Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. Catholic and Apostolic.
Sunday, October 22, 2017. Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Catholic and Apostolic.
Epistle: Galatians 1:11-19 (20th Sunday After Pentecost)
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!
A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians.
Brethren, I give you to understand that the Good News that was announced to you by me is not of man. For I did not receive it from man, nor was it taught to me [by man], but I received it by a revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of the way I lived before in Judaism: how I persecuted the Church of God and ravaged it beyond measure. And I advanced in Judaism above many of my contemporaries in my nation, showing much more zeal for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased him who from my mother’s womb set me apart and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, immediately, without taking counsel with flesh and blood and without going up to Jerusalem to those who were appointed apostles before me, I retired into Arabia and again returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and I remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles, except James, the Lord’s brother.
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: Luke 8:27-39 (6th Sunday After the Holy Cross)
The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke The Evangelist.
At that time when Jesus came to the country of the Gerasenes there met Him a certain man who for a long time was possessed by a devil, and wore no clothes, and lived in the tombs, not in a house. And when he saw Jesus, he fell down before Him, and crying out with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I pray Thee, do not torment me.” For he was charging the unclean spirit to go forth from the man. For many times it had laid hold of him; and he was bound with chains and fetters, and kept under guard, but he would break the bonds asunder, and be driven by the devil into the deserts. And Jesus asked him, saying, “What is thy name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many devils had entered into him. And they entreated Him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was there, feeding on the mountainside. And they kept entreating Him to give them leave to enter into them. And He gave them leave. And the devils came out from the man and entered into the swine; and the herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and were drowned. And when the swineherds saw what had happened, they fled and reported it in the town and in the country; and people came out to see what had happened. And they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the devils had gone out sitting at His feet, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. And those also who had seen it reported to them how he had been saved from Legion. And all the people of the Gerasene district besought Him to depart from them; for they were seized with great fear. And He got into a boat and went back. But the man from whom the devils had gone out prayed Him that he might remain with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to thy house, and tell all that God has done for thee.” And he departed, proclaiming throughout the whole town all that Jesus had done for him.
For over 300 years anyone who said they were a Christian was persecuted or killed. The Acts of the Apostles tells us about how the followers of Jesus were treated after Jesus died and other history books tells us about the events that took place after the period of the apostles.
On October 28, 312 something very special happened. The emperor Constantine along with his army went to defeat the emperor Maxentius. On his way there, Constantine, who was not a Christian, saw the sign of the cross in the sky and he heard a voice that said “By this sign you will be victorious.” He painted the first two letters of Jesus’s name in Greek (chi and ro) on the shields of his army and went to defeat Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian bridge. He then became the emperor of the entire Roman empire; both east and west.
He decided to move the capital of the empire from Rome to a city in the eastern part of the empire called Byzantium. He was a humble guy so he renamed it the city of Constantine, or in Greek, Constantinople. In gratitude to the Christian God, whoever He was, Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians. He soon discovered there were Christians throughout the empire and most had very little contact with each other so in the year 325, he invited all the bishops to gather in city just outside of Constantinople, called Nicaea.
The Creed we recite every Sunday is called the Nicene Creed because it was composed at the Council of Nicaea. Prior to this council, bishops could not easily gather so each Church produced summaries of the faith called “the rule of faith.” The points contained in these statements came from the teachings the apostles had received from Jesus and subsequently gave to the particular Churches which they had established in what is today Northern Africa, the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, India, and Europe. We call this process, the passing on of the “apostolic” faith.
When we recite the Nicene Creed, we say: “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Though all four points are important, today’s first reading directs us to reflect on what it means to believe in a Church that is “catholic” and “apostolic.”
The word Catholic means “universal” in Latin and “belonging to the whole” in Greek. Both point to the early belief that you cannot just be a private Christian or as some protestants say today “We are non-denominational Christians.” I don’t mean that in any disrespectful way because I respect everyone’s journey of faith. However, it is important to remember that the early Christians gathered in unity specifically to show that although there were particular Churches in every city throughout the Roman empire, they did not preach a private brand of Christianity. Their individual faith was Catholic in the sense that it was also the faith of the universal Church.
Saint Augustine says “We are Catholic Christians” to emphasize that there is a larger reality to Christianity than just what is present in the life of the individual or local church. This balance between the particular Church, such as Holy Cross Church or any other parish and the universal, that is the Catholic Church, remains important. We are no longer universal, no longer Catholic, in the true sense of the word if we stop believing what is believed in other Catholic Churches around the world today, but also more importantly what all these Churches have believed since the time of Jesus and the apostles.
In his letter to the Galatians, the great apostle St. Paul wants to assure his followers that the faith he is passing on is the one that He received from Christ Himself and not one that he put together himself. He says to them: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12).
From Christ, to the apostles, to the Church found throughout the world during these past 2000 years, the Catholic Church continues to live and teach that same apostolic faith. Though some practices may have changed or may differ from place to place, wherever the Catholic Church is found, she teaches the identical apostolic faith. The Catholic Church in India, the Middle East, and Europe are different in customs but are all identical in belief.
This is what it means to be a Catholic Christian. What we believe and practice at Holy Cross is not my invention or your invention. Our beliefs and practices are not our modifications made to fit our personal tastes and desires. Rather, we follow the teachings of Christ who himself said to the apostles: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me;” (John 6:38) Then after His resurrection: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (Jn. 20:21-23)
This faith comes with an eternal guarantee, not my word, not your word, not anyone’s word, but the words of Christ and the apostles to which the Catholic Church has been faithful throughout the years.
Sometimes individuals make the statement “I don’t believe everything the Church says” as if the faith that we hold can be different according to what we feel at different points in our life. Whether or not we feel like being honest or living a moral life does not change the need to work hard to do so.
We can feel different if we have too many cups of coffee or if we eat too much sugar, but what we feel cannot change what we believe. We cannot confuse opinion with belief. The statement “I believe” is a strong one that can only be made when a believing community, not only I as an individual, reaches a certain level of assurance.
We should never equate “I believe” with “I think” or “my opinion is” or even “I like” or “I prefer” because we may have a wrong opinion or prefer something that is not true. However, our faithfulness to the apostolic teaching as found in the Catholic Church assures us that we are believing and living the faith that Jesus established and not a faith of conflicting personal opinions.
Some are led astray by misunderstanding this aspect the Catholic faith. Our purpose is not to amuse or entertain each other but to be a living and active community of faithful men and women who witness in our lives to the marvels of God.
It is not easy coming to church on Sunday and bowing your head before God in order to admit you are a sinner. It is not easy to study the Bible. It is not easy to live a faith that sometimes goes against our own desires. But only this faith, though difficult, can be called the authentic Christian faith.
We as Catholics have so much, that we sometimes fail to appreciate the treasures that Christ, the apostles, and two thousand brilliant years have left us. When you have so much it is difficult to appreciate it. Just like today, children and yes even adults have so many toys, they don’t appreciate any of them.
The first letter of St. Peter reminds the individuals in the Church never to forget who they are as inheritors of such a great tradition. Saint Peter says: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
This faith we as Catholics continue to proclaim, despite the many attacks against us, is nothing short of the apostolic voice that has given life to the Church from the time of Jesus and the apostles.
Many Catholics know very little about their faith. Unfortunately, the result is that many are deceived by every wind that proclaims a new teaching, trend, and style. The apostles did not live trying to be popular, they died trying to be faithful. We need to always remain rooted in the truth of this apostolic faith.
The words of St. Paul continue to be the model of life in the Catholic Church: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel… but of Jesus Christ.” This is the choice before us as inheritors of this great Catholic and Apostolic tradition. We either follow the voice of Jesus Christ or the conflicting and changing voices of fads and trends that surround us.
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