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2018-04-08 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "Transformed before and after"

Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Transformed before and after.
Sunday, April 8, 2018. Sunday of Saint Thomas.

Especially, around the new year, many advertisements appear from health clubs, companies selling diet or beauty products, or doctors showing “before and after pictures” of happy and healthy people with headlines such as:

“Alberto lost 85 pounds in only three months. Now, he has cut abs and can run a marathon” or “Buy our pill” or “join our health club” and “You too can look and feel like Alberto.”

These “before and after” ads are very appealing if we want to lose weight, have younger looking skin, have hair that is flowing and just right, have whiter and brighter teeth, or work on any other insecurity we may have.

These pictures may reflect “before” and “after” times in our life as well. If you look at your childhood pictures you may say “In elementary school, I was cute but now in high school, I’m more than just cute, I’ve reached new heights of good looks, sophistication, and charm.”

However, we can’t always be proud of our “before and after” pictures.
Studies show “the average American will gain about one pound of additional weight each year from age 25” and “since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the average American, both male and female, has put on 15 or more additional pounds without getting any taller.” Unfortunately, if we had our before and after pictures next to each other they will most likely be the exact opposite of the ads we see in advertisements.
I know for sure, that my “before and after” pictures could not sell anything.

Much more important than how we look physically, today’s Gospel presents us with a spiritual “before and after” testimony of Jesus and the apostles. Friday: Jesus died and the hope of many was shattered.
Sunday: Jesus rose and the hope of many was restored. Jesus’s death and resurrection is the best “before and after” the world has ever seen.

The joy of Easter is not just the “before and after” of what Jesus did by conquering death by rising to new life, but also what happened to his followers.

There were many “before and after” transformations that happened after the resurrection. The women went to the tomb and were afraid, but they left the tomb to be the first to proclaim the resurrection to the apostles.

The before and after in the life of the disciples was also quick and radical as we read in today’s Gospel. Before: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). After: “When Jesus showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Therefore, they were hiding and afraid before, but after they were glad and rejoiced.

This “before and after” change happened repeatedly. When Jesus first appeared, Thomas was not with them. When he returned he too had an amazing “before and after” transformation. The disciples told Thomas “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Then when Jesus appeared to them again, He said to Thomas “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Before, Thomas did not believe, but after, Thomas believed and answered, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:29)

Easter, just like Christmas, has become too commercial and trivialized. Easter is not about having a party with your family and friends, overeating, exchanging eggs, and surviving a chocolate overdose.

The Easter message is the heart of our faith. We read in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:22-23). A few chapters later he also says: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

The death and resurrection is the central belief of our faith, it is also the starting point for our own before and after journey. The spiritual “before and after” we live in our life is not like the pictures you see, but more like a rollercoaster. Sometimes our faith is strong, while other times we’re not quite sure where we are, where we’re going, or what we believe. However, we will grow in our faith when the death and resurrection of Christ remains the focal point of everything we say and do.

In my life, I can tell you that faith is not just something I believe, it is something I try to be. It is more than an idea it is who I am, or at least try to be. Sometimes, I’m successful, while at most times I realize that I’m a work in progress and need a lot of work and a lot of progress.

Just like we compare “before and after” pictures of different stages in our life, which could be better or worse, it is also important for all of us to have landmarks and points of references in our spiritual life.

Ask yourselves some questions today and often: “What have been some high points in my spiritual life?” “What have been some low points?”
“How did you get out of your low points and get to your high points?”
“What do you need to do to keep growing in different parts of your life?”

There can be summed up with three questions: “Where have you been?”
“Where are you now?” “Where do you want to be in your spiritual life?”

We never despair because the transformation of the apostles and the witness of the saints reminds us that faith is not a picture you put on a wall but a daily experience that is sometimes fuzzy and sometimes clear. Above all our authentic faith is a humble journey to grow closer to God’s love shown to us by His death and resurrection and the many daily blessings He gives 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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