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2018-02-18 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "Image is everything"

Homily. Image is everything. Father François Beyrouti. Sunday, February 18, 2018.

Sunday, February 18, 2018
First Sunday of Lent – Sunday of Orthodoxy
Epistle of the First Sunday of Lent. Hebrews 11:24-26; 32-40; 12:1-2.
Prokimenon (Tone 4). Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our fathers, and your name is worthy of praise and glorious forever. Stichon: For you are just in all you have done to us, and all your works are true and your ways right.

A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews
Brethren, by faith Moses, when he was grown up, denied he was a son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Cf. Ex, 2: 11) ― choosing to be afflicted with God’s people rather than to have the enjoyment of sin for a time, estimating the indignities suffered by Christ to be of greater value than the Egyptians’ treasures (Cf. Ex. 2:32): for he was considering the reward. By faith he left Egypt not fearing the king’s wrath: for he persevered as if he were seeing the One who cannot be seen. By faith, he celebrated the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the one who destroyed the first-born might not touch these. By faith, they passed through the Red Sea, as through dry land ― whereas the Egyptians attempting it were swallowed up. By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after people had gone around them for seven days. By faith, Rahab the prostitute who had received the spies in peace did not perish with the unbelievers. And what more shall I say? For time will be too short to speak of Gideon, of Barac, of Samson, of Jephthe, of David and of Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained the fulfillment of promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, recovered strength from weakness, became valiant in battle routed foreign armies. Women had their dead restored to them through resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to yield for their release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others again suffered mockery and blows, even chains and jailing. They were stoned, cut to pieces, put to the question, killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, distressed, afflicted (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground. And none of these, despite the positive witnessing of faith, received what was promised, for God had something better in store for us, so that they were not to reach their final perfection without us.

Alleluia (Tone 4). Moses and Aaron were among his priests and Samuel among those who called upon his name. Stichon: They called upon the Lord, and he answered them; from the pillar of cloud he spoke to them.

Gospel of the 1st Sunday of Lent. John 1:43-51.
At that time Jesus was about to leave for Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and said of him, “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no guile!” Nathanael said to him, “Where do you know me from?” Jesus answered him and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him and said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are King of Israel.” Answering, Jesus said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, you believe. Greater things than these shall you see.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Someone once told me “Image is everything.”

There is a lot of truth to this. Some spend thousands of dollars working on their image. They buy the right car to have the right image and buy fashionable clothing to present a certain image. There are even image consultors that companies or celebrities hire to help improve their image. This is done because many believe that image is everything.

We as Christians also believe that image is everything, but a different kind of image. That is why on the first Sunday of the great fast we celebrate the Church’s use of images, which we call icons. This commemoration is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

There are two important words that we need to define. The word for image in Greek is “eikona” and the word orthodox means “right teaching.” So today we are celebrating the right teaching about the right image. In essence we are celebrating that “image is everything.” But not just any image, the right image is everything.

To understand what this right image is, we go back to Genesis 1:27, where we read “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

The image God created is everything, but not the one that we re-create or distort. That is why Deuteronomy 27:15 reads “Cursed be the man who makes a graven or molten image”

This is true, because what we make we worship. We worship the image that we make of ourselves. We also worship our human-made image of the world. However, the image that we make for ourselves is quite different from the one that God has made for us, because God’s image is not simply an external one, but an image that has depths and is the right image on the outside and the inside.

The prophet Jeremiah says “Every man is stupid and without knowledge; … for his images are false, and there is no breath in them” (10:14). God has created living and life giving images, whereas we sometimes ignore what God made and settle for much less.

That is why on this first Sunday of Lent we focus on working on the right image and not on just any image. We want the right image that is based on recognizing the image that God has created. We also want to work all our life on developing this image in the multitude of skills and talents of which we are capable. This is the Christian image of humanity. It has content and works to develop this content.

Unfortunately, we spend more time thinking about our hair or deciding how we are going to dress, than we do on how to develop our personality and how we are going to act. There is a changing and passing image that is not everything, then there is the true image that endures.

Jesus warns us: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

The image that God wants us to work on is not only the right image of ourselves, but our right image of the things around us. For example, we often create false images that lead to false expectation: a man needs to be macho, a woman is supposed to be attractive and maybe even seducing, family life is a prison and constricting, people are to be used, and if I’m not getting everything my way, life is boring or not fair.

If we have the wrong image of these things, then we need to make some changes. That is why we fast to work on the right image, which actually is everything.

If we are having problems with the directions, God says to read His directions in His Book. Though simple they are profound. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives clear and simple directions to his disciples: “Follow me” (John 1:43). He also tells us: “Follow me and you will know your image and the image that I want you to live.”

We start this first day of Lent by commemorating the pictures of the saints, which we call icons, because image is everything. Not the image that I create for myself, but the image of God that is in me that I need to work hard to discover, appreciate, and develop.

We want to keep the image of the saints before us and surround our homes and Churches with their icons because the saints had the right image and lived God’s image in them.

Saint Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We have the right image when we can say “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

This is the image we want to develop and work on during these 40 days of fasting, because the right image is everything.

Let us work on our image. Not just any image, but the image of God in us and shining through 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


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