2018-01-28 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "Becoming a Saint by recognizing you are a sinner."
"Becoming a Saint by recognizing you are a sinner."
Sunday, January 28, 2018 homily by Father François Beyrouti.
Prokimenon (Tone 1) Psalm 32:22,1
May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in you.
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting.
A Reading from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
Brethren, all things are lawful for me, but not all things are fitting. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of anyone. Food is for the belly, and the belly for food, but God will destroy both the one and the other. Now, the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. For God has raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a prostitute? By no means! Or do you not know that one who cleaves tot a prostitute becomes one body with her? For the two, it is said, shall be one flesh (Gn.2 : 24). But he who cleaves to the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee immortality. Every sin a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and that you are not your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God therefore in your body and in your soul which both are God’s.
Alleluia (Tone 1) Psalm 17:48,50
O God, you granted me retribution and make peoples subject to me and saved me from my raging enemies. Stichon: Therefore I will proclaim you, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praise to your name.
Gospel: Luke 15:11-32. The Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Lord told this parable: “A man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ And he divided his possessions between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered up all his wealth and traveled to a far country; and there he squandered his fortune in loose living. And after he had spent all, there came a severe famine over that country, and he began to suffer from it. And he went and joined one of the local landowners, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. And he longed to fill himself with the pods the pigs were eating, but no one offered to give them to him. But when he had come to his senses, he said, ‘How many hired men in my father’s house have bread in abundance, while I am perishing with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” And he got up and went to his father. But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the Father said to his servants, ‘Fetch quickly the best robe and put it on him, and give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet; and bring out the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; because this my son was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry. Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came close to the house, he heard music and dancing. And calling one of the servants he asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has got him back safe.’ But he was angered and would not go in. His father, therefore, came out and began to beg him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look, these many years I have been serving you, and have never disobeyed any of your orders; and yet, you have never given me a kid that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours comes, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes; you have killed for him the fattened calf!’ But he said to him, ‘Son you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours; but we were bound to make merry and rejoice, for this your brother was dead, and has come to life; he was lost and is found.’”
In our Melkite Catholic Church and all other Catholic and Orthodox Churches that follow the Byzantine liturgical tradition there are always periods of preparation for a big feast.
We don’t just celebrate Easter, we prepare for it in a special way with an entire week of extra prayers that help us re-live the events before Jesus died and rose from the dead. We also don’t just celebrate this week, we prepare for it for forty days of fasting and praying. And we don’t just celebrate these forty days, we also prepare to begin our time of fasting by reflecting on important themes before we begin our fast.
Last week we began our preparations for the period of the Great Fast, which is also called Lent. This forty day fast, is our preparation for holy week, which is our preparation for Pascha, the great feast of feasts, which celebrates Jesus’ death and resurrection. Of course the hope is that after all these preparations we will actually be prepared to sing “Christ is Risen.”
Last week we read the Gospel of the Pharisee and the Publican which focusses on the importance of humility in order for our prayer to be authentic and real. The humble Publican who went to the temple and bowed his head in prayer should be a model for us. Jesus says: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). We are reminded that before we even think about fasting we need to be humble.
Today is the second Sunday of preparation for the Great fast and is called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. The Gospel focusses on the importance of self-knowledge and repentance. We can also say that last week was a preparation for this week as without humility we can never develop a true picture of who we are and we can never be honest enough to admit that even if we were the greatest of saints we still need to repent.
We have to always remember that saints are those who know they are sinners, while those who remain sinners are those who can’t believe that God made them to become saints.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. It is quite a dramatic and touching story that focusses on the hard work and jealousy of the older son, the selfishness, ingratitude, but then repentance and humility of the younger son, and the enormous patience, mercy, forgiveness, and love of the father.
A parable is meant to teach us a lesson about how much God loves us, but how we are sometimes distant. In this parable, the younger son demands from the father his share of the inheritance. Since children get their inheritance when parents die, the greed of the younger son led him to treat his father as if he were already dead. This parable is not meant to tell us how silly the younger son is, but is meant to challenge us to ask whether God is alive or dead in our lives.
The fact that we’re here shows that God is alive for all of us. But, how alive God is in our life will be determined by how we live our faith the rest of the week. It is easy to love God when we are here praying, but it is much more difficult when we face tough situations that really challenge or shake us. How we live the rest of this week will show whether we are part-time Sunday Christians or are lifetime Christians.
In addition to inviting us to reflect on how alive God is in our life, this Gospel also reminds us that everyone of us needs to change and become better in some aspect in our lives. We have to always keep the healthy balance of knowing we are precious children of God while at the same time have the daily intensity of recognizing our failures and working on them so that our lives can reflect that we are truly children of God.
When the younger son realizes what he did was wrong he says: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants’ ” (Luke 15:18-:19). We all need to have that humility. When we return to our heavenly Father’s house, it is there that we will find mercy and love, not rejection.
Jesus tells us that when the younger son returned home, the father saw him in a distance and went out to hug him. God does not hide and does not close the door. His doors are not only open, but God is always looking for us. Even if we are distant, He is with us and waiting for our return.
There are many other important themes in this beautiful story found in Luke 15:11-32. I encourage everyone to go home and read it slowly and reflect on how the different parts of the parable apply to different elements in your life.
Are we arrogant or are we humble? Is God dead in our lives or are our lives proof of how alive and wonderful God is? Are we able to recognize our sins, ask forgiveness from those whom we hurt and go to confession?
There are other lessons as well which you will find in this gospel when you reflect slowly on it.
Our preparation for the forty days of fasting, which is a preparation for holy week, which is a preparation for Easter, which enables us to sing “Christ is Risen” actually begins now. This time of fasting and repentance is above all meant to remind us that at the end of the journey we will celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death, but that victory is meaningless if we don’t renew ourselves through humility, fasting, prayer, and repentance.
When we pray more often, realize we need to be humble, and think of our sins, this time of year will not only be a period of preparation. It will be a time of true and authentic growth in our spiritual life and in our relationship with God, our heavenly Father, who is always with us, who always loves us, and who always patiently waits for us to commit and re-commit our lives to Him.
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