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2018-11-04 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "The Church: A Family Not A Building."

The Church: A Family not a Building. Father François Beyrouti Homily.

Sunday, November 4, 2018.
Fifth Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Gospel of the Rich Man and Lazarus

A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians (2-14-22).
BRETHREN, Christ is our peace. He it is who has made both [Jews and Gentiles] one, and has broken down the intervening wall of the enclosure, the enemy, in his flesh. He has voided the Law of commandments expressed in decrees, so that of the two he might create in himself one new man, and make peace, and reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, having destroyed their enmity within himself. And as he came, he announced the good tidings of peace to you who were far away, and of peace to those who were near: because through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Therefore, you are now no longer strangers or foreigners, but citizens with the saints and members of God’s household: you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Cf.Is.28: 16) with Christ himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole structure is closely fitted together and grows into a temple holy in the Lord; in him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.

ALLELUIA (Tone 7)
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High!
Stichon: To proclaim your kindness at dawn and your faithfulness throughout the night.

Gospel of the 5th Sunday of Holy Cross. Luke 16:19-31 (The Rich Man & Lazarus)
At that time, the Lord told this parable; “there was certain rich man who used to clothe himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted every day in splendid fashion. And there was certain poor man, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. And it came to pass that the poor man died and was borne away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; but the rich man also died and was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes, being in torments, he saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham have pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember you in your lifetime have received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now here he is comforted whereas you are tormented. And besides all that, between us and you a great gulf is fixed, so that those who wish to pass over from this side to you cannot, and they cannot cross from your side to us.’ And he said, ‘Then, father, I pray you to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they too come into this place of torments.’ And Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ But he answered, ‘No father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.”

Homily
The word “Church” means different things to different people.

Some people go to Church because thy love the singing, some like the opportunity to see their family and friends, believe it or not some even like the homily, and some are actually intrigued with the collection.

The Sunday collection is sometimes called the “tithe.” This word means 10 percent and refers to many passages in the Old and New Testament that speak of giving 10 percent of your income to the temple or Church.

One day in Church a father gave the envelope to his daughter and said: “Today, you can give our tithe.” After putting the envelope in the basket, the girl turned to her parents and said: “Now that we’ve paid our fine, can we leave.” There is a big difference between a tithe and a fine.

For most people the word “Church” refers to either the different aspects of the service or the building.

However, Church is not the building: where we are, it is not the service: what we are doing, it is who we are and who we are becoming as sons and daughters of God because we have come together.

When people get together to worship God and receive His body and blood in the Eucharist, that is Church.

In the New Testament, the word “Church” appears over 100 times. It does not refer to a building because there were no Church buildings for the first 300 years of the Church when all Christians were persecuted by the Jews and Romans.

The first mention of Church in the New Testament is in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says: “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

The Acts of the Apostles speak about the growth of the Church and how the Church was persecuted.

We read in Acts 8:1 “On that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem” and in Acts 9:31 “The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied.”

Even the message of the book of Revelation is structured around how God will strengthen the Church and help the Church grow until the end of time.

So the idea of the Church as a building is not correct. When we think of the Church, the first word we should think of is a “family.”

On Sunday, we don’t go to Church, the building; we go to Church the family and we become Church the family.

Notice how in Church structure we use words that speak of a family not ones that speak of an organization or company.

The priest is called “father,” the bishop is called “our father and bishop,” the word Patriarch means “father” and “head,” the word Pope means “father,” we call the Church a mother, and we call each other brothers and sisters.

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (2:19-21), he says: “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

The Church reminds us that we are not strangers to one another or to God, we are one family to each other and one family with God. We are brothers and sisters to each other and we are sons and daughters of God. Saint Paul also says in Ephesians 3:14-15 “I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” That is why the Church is a family.

Notice also how in today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of heaven. When we die, we are welcomed by Abraham. The name Abraham comes from two words, “ab” which means “father” and “raham” which means “a multitude.” Therefore, Abraham means “Father of a multitude.” In other words, Abraham is the father not only of his family but of all the nations who form one family under God. Abraham visibly represents our heavenly Father and reminds us that at the end of time we will be gathered as God’s children in the bosom of the “ab” the father.

In today’s Gospel, Abraham says to the man who distanced Himself from God: “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things.” (Luke 16:25). This reminds us that despite our distance, despite what we do, and despite how we feel, God always calls us son or daughter, because we are always His children.

Therefore, when we gather as God’s children, the Church, here on earth we are living a foretaste of the gathering of an even larger family in heaven with the family we know and see and our larger God family.

We can pray at home. In fact, we should pray every day at home, but we cannot be “the Church” without gathering as the Church family.

This image is very important because sometime people think of the Church as a building or an organization, rather than a family that they are active members of. If the Church is a building you go to it, if it is an organization you get something from it, but if it is a family, you are actively responsible for it.

Two main characteristics of a family is that each member acknowledges each other as brothers and sisters and each member gathers to see each other, spend time with each other, and grow with each other. You cannot say you have a family if you never gather to see each other. It is the same thing with the Church.

Some people have a consumer idea of the Church and ask: “What will the Church do for me?”

The better question is: “How responsible am I as an active member of the Church family?”

God has made us in family of brothers, sisters, and parents and reminds us that our neighbor is also a member of our family. God further reminds us that in addition to our earthly parents, God is our father who created us and the Church is our mother who gathers and nourishes us.

If the Church were only a building we wouldn’t have to go to it because it is already there, but if it is a family, then we need to gather to see each other and remind each other that we live, pray, sacrifice, and serve them here on earth and long to be with them forever.

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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