2019-12-15 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily: "How to Shop at the Bible Pharmacy."
This is the link to Sunday’s homily: https://youtu.be/ISuXb9iEOEA
The readings and full written homily are below.
How to Shop at the Bible Pharmacy.
Sunday, December 15, 2019 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Colossians 3:4-11. Luke 14:16-24.
Sunday of the Forefathers. The Gospel of the Great Feast.
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Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
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Sunday of the Forefathers. Colossians 3:4-11.
Brethren, when Christ, our life, appears, then you too shall appear in glory. Put to death whatever in your members is of the earth: immorality, uncleanness, lust, evil desire, covetousness, which is a form of idol-worship. Because of these passions, God’s wrath comes upon the sons of disobedience and you yourselves once walked in them when they were your (way of) life. But now, you too put them all away; anger, wrath, malice, abusive language and foul-mouthed utterances. Do not lie to one another. Strip off the old man with his deeds and put on the new, one that is being renewed toward perfect knowledge according to his creator’s image (Cf. Gn. 1:26). Here there is no Gentile and Jew, no circumcised and uncircumcised, no Barbarian and Scythian, no slave and freeman, but Christ is all things, and in all.
Sunday of Forefathers. 11th of Holy Cross. Luke 14:16-24 (The Great Feast).
The Lord told this parable, “A certain man gave a great supper, and he invited many. And he sent his servant at supper time to tell those invited to come, for everything is now ready. And they all with one accord began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a farm, and I must go out and see it; I pray you hold me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them; I pray you hold me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ And the servant returned, and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant. ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, and the crippled, and the lame, and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, your order has been carried out, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you that none of those who were invited shall taste of my supper.' For many are called but few are chosen.”
The pharmaceutical industry is very profitable because it produces a remedy or a soother for every kind of sickness and discomfort that we may be feeling. There are medicines for everything from a headache to the worst kinds of sickness. All we have to do is make sure we take the right remedy. If we have a headache, a pill for indigestion won’t help. The importance of picking the right remedy for our sickness may be obvious when it comes to our bodies, but sometimes it is less obvious when it comes to our soul.
The Bible is like a pharmacy. There are many lessons in it that both teach and soothe us. That is why it is important to read the Bible every day so that we are familiar with everything God wants us to know. By doing that we will know where to go in the Bible if something specific is troubling us.
There are specific sections in the Bible that will help us if we are feeling lonely, tired, angry, anxious, or hurt. For example, Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” You may also want to remember Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
When you read the Bible write down or memorize verses that help you through the different situations you are going through because the Bible has a remedy for everything we are going through. Best of all, this pharmacy is always open, always offers us comfort and direction, costs nothing, and there never any negative side-effects to the Bible pharmacy.
However, the Bible is a pharmacy but not a smorgasbord where we pick and choose from a few favorite verses and overlook the ones that really challenge us. That is why it is important to know the entire message of the Bible to help us balance all our life situations.
Around the major feast-days of the Church, the Sunday readings are selected to highlight what we are celebrating. The Church is like a good doctor who writes a specific prescription and leaves it up to us to take action.
For example, today’s Gospel reading is about a man who gave a supper and invited many. What we would expect to be a happy story ends up also containing many sad elements. We would expect that if this generous man invited many people, we would be hearing a story about how many people came, how much of a good time they had, and how grateful they were for being invited.
Instead, we read about how those who were invited made excuses for why they could not come. The Gospel tells us: “The first said to him, ‘I have bought a farm, and I must go out and see it; I pray you hold me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them; I pray you hold me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come’ ” (Luke 14:16-20).
Since the supper was ready, the man who had sent the invitation ended up inviting and welcoming those who were not initially invited and whom he was not expecting.
We read this Gospel two Sundays before Christmas because it is the right prescription for this time of year. It reminds us that the birth of Jesus is an invitation to the greatest possible celebration. Many people waited thousands of years for the coming of the Messiah and now Jesus, the Messiah is here. However, instead of great joy, the birth of Jesus brought sadness to the ones who should have been the happiest.
Every leader wants peace in his kingdom. Therefore, Herod should have been one of the happiest person because the prince of peace was born under his reign. Very much like the guests in today’s Gospel, Herod rejected the invitation to the banquet of joy. The Gospel of Matthew tells us: “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3).
The children should have also been happy but ended up crying because Herod in his fury wanted all the new born male children dead. The Gospel of Matthew tells us: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matt.2:16).
Mary and Joseph also should have been happy and everyone around them should have welcomed Mary and Joseph, but they could not find a room in the inn. Then immediately after Jesus was born they had to flee to Egypt so that Herod would not kill Jesus.
This reading and all the stories about the birth of Christ are like a pharmaceutical remedy that we need to take right now, because God urgently wants to remind us that He is inviting us to His banquet. We are all searching for happiness in the things around us, but that is not the right pill. God wants us to be happy around this time of year, and even more important to be happy about the right thing.
Ask yourself a simple question: How are you responding every day to God’s invitation to dedicate your life to His Word? The Bible is God’s invitation letter to us. Have we opened it, read it, and responded to it? Especially at this time of year, today’s Gospel, reminds us that Christmas, which is a celebration of Jesus’ birth, is an invitation for all of us to a great banquet of faith.
There is a very important reversal in today’s Gospel. Those who were expected to rejoice ended up rejecting the invitation and missing out. However, those who should have been sad because they were not initially invited ended up rejoicing because they were the ones who at the party.
Jesus invites us to a life of faith. This relationship with him is like a banquet. We accept this invitation and are able to celebrate our faith when we accept Christ into our lives and turn to Him in times of joy and in times of difficulty.
As these days bring us closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus let us reflect on how we have responded in our life to the banquet of blessings that God has showered upon us. Let us also reflect on how we will keep responding in faith to everything that comes our way.
We can come up with many excuses to delay our positive response, but when we do, we will resemble those who in the Gospel did not appreciate the blessed invitation and missed the celebration.
Nothing in a pharmacy can help us is if we do not take our medication. Equally so, we can only grow in our faith when we respond to God’s daily invitation to welcome Him in our lives and have that mean something very real for us today.