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2017-12-31 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. What has changed in you?

Sunday, December 31 2017 homily. Father François Beyrouti. What has changed in you?
Sunday Before the Theophany of our Lord. Commemoration of the holy Joseph, spouse of the Mother of God, James, David.

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!

Epistle: 2 Timothy 4:5-8 Sunday before Theophany
A Reading from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy 4:5-8.
My son Timothy be watchful in all things, bear with tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the Good News, fulfill your ministry. As for me, I am already being poured out in sacrifice, and the time of my deliverance is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have completed the course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the just Judge, will give to me on that day: yet not to me only, but also to those who love his coming.

Alleluia (Tone 4)
May God have mercy on us and bless us.
Stichon: May he let his face shine upon us and have mercy on us.

Gospel: Mark 1:1-8. Sunday before Theophany.
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before you, who shall prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the desert, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,’” there came John in the desert, baptizing and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea went out to him, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and all were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “One mightier than I is coming after me, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Homily

Christ is Born. Glorify Him.
Almaseeh Woolida. Fa-majidoo.

Some people think Christmas is over. A child told me, “It’s not fair. We prepare months for Christmas then it’s over in one day.” Although I am not a child, I never want Christmas to be over. I want to live the joy of Christmas every day without having to deal with the calories of Christmas. This is possible.

After a child is born you don’t celebrate his or her birth for only one day. The day of birth is the beginning of the celebrations that actually last one’s whole life and is remembered every year as the birthday. If we celebrate our birth for so long, then the birth of Jesus should definitely not be limited to only one day.

The Christmas season in the Church lasts for 12 days until the Theophany and in the larger context until February 2 when we celebrate the 40th day after Jesus’s birth when Mary and Joseph presented Him in the temple.

Church terminology expresses the joy this season is supposed to focus on. Christmas is called “The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” On December 25, we focus on the birth of our savior. Jesus’s baptism is called the “feast of the Theophany of our Lord” and focuses on the fact that God wants us to see something that He is showing.

The overall theme, particularly during the twelve days of Christmas is “theophany.” Other words for “theophany” are manifestation or revelation. We use these words to emphasize that Jesus’s birth is a revelation of God’s love for us. At His birth, Jesus shows us the loving face of God who not only says He loves us, but wants to show us He loves us by revealing and manifesting His face to us.

Then at His baptism we see Jesus as an adult who begins His ministry with the presence of the Holy Spirit who hovers over Him and the voice of the Father who says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This reminds us that Jesus is fully human and fully divine and that Jesus had both a human and divine mission.

How does all this relate to us? We have to ask ourselves a simple question “How has the birth of Christ changed us?” When some people see a celebrity they keep talking about this encounter for many years if not the rest of their lives. People get excited, they want an autograph, they want a picture, and they say they feel different and that this experience changed them.

If an encounter with a celebrity changes people, then it is a good question to ask “How has our encounter with Christ changed us?” Has this time of year helped us appreciate the gifts God has given us? Have we dedicated our life to pray more? Is reading the Bible more a part of our life?

Answer these questions now and make a commitment to make sure that the birth of Christ changes you and will change you every day as you see the face of God in the Christ child and in everyone you meet.

I would also like to encourage you to make a renewed commitment to your Church. For some Church is a vague concept, but it should be very concrete and specific.

A definition of the Church is “the gathering of the people of God.” Gathering in Church on Sunday is important because we live our faith mostly alone every day, but on Sunday we get together to celebrate and take strength in the entire community that gathers to worship God as a visible body.

God not only tells us He loves us but shows us He loves us by showing up. The Church is the physical presence together of everyone who says they love God. Church is really about showing up to form the body of Christ that we say we are.

The Church is also more than just our Sunday Divine Liturgy and for us to be a healthy Church we have to think of all the other elements of what it means to be a Church. I would like 2018 to be for Holy Cross a year where we focus on our spiritual well-being and spiritual growth.

We have done exceptionally well financially and I want to thank everyone who has donated both of their time and their finances. Our Church is healthy financially because all of you set whatever amount you can for the future growth of the Church and because so many of you volunteer your time to fix things and help get things done that would cost thousands. We still have more to save for our dream of building a hall and church, but there is something much more important than this and that is building up the living Church.

At this year’s clergy conference Bishop Nicholas said: “You may have a perfect church building properly appointed with everything our Byzantine tradition calls for, but if you have no living icons to fill the church your artistic perfection is worthless-it becomes just a museum. Church is not a building; it is the Body of Christ.” This is what we want our focus to be in 2018. How can we make sure we are a healthy Church with all of us as living and vibrant icons of Christ?

Bishop Nicholas will visit Holy Cross on Saturday, January 13 and Sunday January 14. On Saturday from 9-12 noon we will have a very important meeting with our bishop to briefly discuss where we are with our building goals, but more important where we are with our spiritual goals.

During this meeting I will give a brief financial overview. I don’t like to discuss finances in Church on Sunday so I hope you all make it on Saturday to hear the good news. However, the good news of a Church is never financial, it is always the good news of how we are living the good news of Jesus Christ.

During the clergy conference Bishop Nicholas also said: “A healthy parish is not gauged by how many people you have in a hafli or picnic, but rather, a church filled with people who are active in many ministries in the community.” (Bishop Nicholas Samra “Be Pro-Active: Reflections on Pastoral Issues in the Eparchy of Newton.” Sophia Winter 2018, page 7). We want to build a healthy future for our Church which is much more important than a healthy stomach.

In today’s epistle Staint Paul tells Timothy: “be watchful in all things, bear with tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the Good News, and fulfill your ministry.” Our meeting on Saturday, January 13 from 9-12 noon will focus on the heart of our parish, which is exactly tied to fulfilling our ministry by spreading the Good news.

As we begin a new year, renew your commitment to serve God in whatever way you can. Let us continue to draw strength as a Church by serving each other and the wider community. We are only a Church if we gather to hear, study, and share the Good news of Christ.

Our question “How has the birth of Christ changed us?” req uires an answer from us today and a great commitment from us for the rest of this year. God bless you and your families as we transition into 2018. Remember, Christmas is not over especially when the love of Christ continues to be born in our lives and in our parish in very real ways.

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
HolyCrossMelkite.org
YouTube.com/HolyCrossMelkite
YouTube.com/MelkiteTV
Facebook.com/HolyCrossMelkite
Twitter.com/HCMelkite

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