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2018-05-06 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "Apostolic, Catholic, and Christian."

"Apostolic, Catholic, and Christian." Father François Beyrouti Homily. Sunday, May 6, 2018.

Sunday of the Man Born Blind.
Epistle: Acts of the Apostles 16:16-34.
Prokimenon (Tone 5) Ps.11: 8, 2
You, O Lord, will keep us and preserve us always from this generation.
Stichon: Save me, O Lord, for there is no longer any holy man, for truthfulness has vanished from among the children of men.

A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles:
In those days it came to pass that as we the disciples were going to pray, we were met by a girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her masters much profit by her soothsaying. Now, she was following Paul and us, and kept crying out loudly, “These men are servants of the most high God, and they announce to you a way of salvation!” This she did for many days. But Paul could not stand it, so he turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ: get out of her!” And it went out of her that very moment. But seeing that their hope of profit was gone, her masters seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the market-place before the authorities; and bringing them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city. They are Jews, and they advocate practices it is not permitted for us to adopt or observe, since we are Romans.” And the crowd opposed them too, and the magistrates tore off their cloaks and ordered them to be beaten with rods. And after inflicting many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them under safe guard. And he, receiving this command, consigned them to the inner jail and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight, while Paul and Silas were singing hymns to God, the prisoners listened to them. And suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and at once all the doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose. But when the jailer woke up and saw all the doors of the jail open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Do not hurt yourself, for we are all here!” Then calling for a light, he ran in, and trembling with fear, fell at the feet of Paul and Silas. And he let them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved together with your household.” And he spoke to him the word of the Lord, and also to all his household. And he took them at that same hour of the night, and washed their wounds; and he himself was baptized, and all those of his household immediately after. And taking them into his house, he set a table before them, and rejoiced with all his household over his faith in God.

Gospel: John 9:1-38.

Has someone ever asked you: “Are you Catholic or are you Christian?” “Are you saved?” “Why do Catholics baptize children?”

If so, do you feel comfortable answering these and other questions related to your faith? You should, because in his first letter, Saint Peter says: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). If there is hope in us, then we need to be able to comfortably and convincingly speak about that hope?

The first question: “Are you Catholic or are you Christian?” should be an easy one to answer, because Catholics are Christians. In fact, our Melkite Catholic Church, which traces its roots to Jerusalem and Antioch, is actually the Church of the New Testament. We should all have Acts of the Apostles 11:26 memorized. This verse reads: “For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.”

As the Church grew beyond Jerusalem and Antioch there was a need to distinguish between those who follow the same beliefs and those who split off to start their own separate communities.

The word “Christian” means a follower of Christ. The word “Catholic” means “universal” in Latin and “belonging to the whole” in Greek. Therefore, the communities who believed in the same thing and whose beliefs could be traced to the teachings of the apostles were called the Catholic Christians because they were universal and their beliefs and traditions were consistent.

“Tradition” became an important word in the early Church. That is why Saint Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” He also says in 2 Thessalonians 3:6. “keep away from anyone who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.”

Therefore, you are not a Catholic or a Christian, you are a Catholic Christian. Today, some Protestants have reversed this and refer to themselves as “the Christians” and look at the Catholic Church as an offshoot. When you read Church history you see that there have been divisions from day one, but the Church that is one and consistent in belief from the time of the apostles is the Catholic Church.

Patrick Coffin, a well-known Catholic author, blogger, radio host, and speaker was raised Catholic, then became a Protestant. After some serious study he came back to his Catholic faith. A few weeks ago he interviewed Lizzie Estella, a YouTube celebrity who for several years has been posting faith-related clips. She said that after studying the early Church, looking into what the early Christian community believed, and how they lived, she had no choice but to conclude that the only Churches today that have remained consistent in their belief and practice for the past two thousand years are the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

In that interview, both Patrick and Lizzie speak of their journey and regret that most Catholics don’t even know their own history and that is why they end up turning away from their faith. Patrick says that while he was a Protestant, getting Catholics to leave their faith was easier than shooting ducks in a barrel. He said it was so easy because, unfortunately, most Catholics can’t clearly answer even the basic questions related to who Jesus is, the role of Mary and the saints, what is the Eucharist, why Catholics baptize children, and many other faith-related topics.

If we value what we believe, we will live what we believe and take time to learn more about those beliefs. That should be easy in the age of the internet, as we have access to practically anything we want to learn about our history, our beliefs, and every other element of our faith.

Today’s readings are very rich. In the Acts of the Apostles, the early Christians were courageous because they knew what they believed and were not afraid to tell everyone, despite getting beat up or thrown in jail because of their faith. They were so completely convinced of their faith that those who met them also became followers. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles even the prison guard became a follower of Jesus because he saw the faith of Paul and Silas.

Let’s look at some details of this dialogue between Paul, Silas, and the prison guard. “The prison guard called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, [30] and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" [31] And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." [32] And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. [33] And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. [34] Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God” (Acts 16:29-34).

The early Church grew because after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples believed, they lived their faith, they spoke about their faith, and their faith convinced others to believe. These people were baptized along with their whole family. So if someone asks why Catholics baptize children, the simple answer is because we are Catholic Christians who maintain the beliefs and customs of the early Church, as found in Acts of the Apostles.

In the early Church as we read in today’s readings, people believed and were baptized along with their whole family. Through baptism their whole family now became part of God’s family. There are many other reasons why we baptize children. But you can find the answers when you read the Bible, when you read articles about the Bible and the early Church, and when you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

We are sometimes afraid when Protestants, Jehovah Witnesses, or Mormons challenge us. We should know our faith and our history and challenge them instead. A friend of mine told me “I see the Jehovah witnesses and Mormons in the neighborhood, but they stopped coming to my house because I had an answer for all their questions and they couldn’t answer any of mine.”

There are many people who leave the Catholic Church because they don’t know their faith, but there are also thousands like Patrick Coffin, Lizzie Estella, and others who when they study the Bible and Church history realize that the early Church was a Catholic Christian community that believed the same thing regardless of where and when they lived and those beliefs are maintained until today.

We love God when we learn more about God. We love our faith when we learn more about how God is working in our life and in the lives of the many other men and women who have consistently and faithfully carried that faith to us from that first Easter Sunday morning in Jerusalem until today here in Placentia and throughout the whole world.

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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