2020-01-26 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily:"The Truth: Why bother?"
This is the link to the homily for Sunday, January 26, 2020: https://youtu.be/fx3jqthgADY
The text of full homily and readings are below.
The Truth: Why bother?
Sunday, January 26, 2020 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
1 Timothy 4:9-15. Luke 19:1-10.
Fifteenth Sunday after the Sunday of the Holy Cross.
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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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Reading from the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:9-15). Thirty-second Sunday after Pentecost.
My son Timothy, this saying is true and worthy of full acceptance: for we work and are reviled for this reason, that we hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Command and teach these things. Let no man despise the fact that you are young, but be an example to the faithful by what you say and do, by love, faith, spirituality and chastity. Until I come, be diligent in reading, exhorting and teaching. Do not neglect the grace that is in you, granted to you as a speaker for God through the laying on of the hands of the priesthood. Meditate on these things, give yourself entirely to them, so that your progress may be evident to all.
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 15th Sunday of Holy Cross, (Luke 19:1-10) (Zacchaeus’ Repentance)
At that time as Jesus was passing through Jericho, behold there was a man named Zacchaeus; and he was a leading publican, and he was rich. And he was trying to see Jesus, to find out who he was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay in your house today.” And he made haste and came down, and welcomed him joyfully. And upon seeing it, all began to murmur, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, I give one-half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he, too, is the son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
I enjoy spending time with families and answering questions, especially religious ones. Recently, I was visiting a home and the question of sin came up. Then, one of the young children asked me: “Father, do you ever lie?” Of course I wanted to say “never,” but was afraid that my answer may be a lie, because lying is much more than just what you say.
It is easy to say that we should never lie, but more important, can we say that we work hard to tell the truth. Or even more, can we say we are convinced the truth is so important that we consciously work hard to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth in all its aspects? Not lying is important, but it is much more than just speaking falsely. We should not lye because in the bigger picture, when we do we are not living the truth.
Since I was in high school, I’ve made a point, despite how difficult it may be, to tell the truth. At the Church our family goes to, there is a large icon behind the altar, with Jesus carrying an open Gospel book that has the inscription from John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This verse has always struck me as very powerful, because Jesus not only asks us to speak the truth, He says He is truth.
Jesus also connects being His disciple with the truth. In John 8:31-32, He says: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” This is a very rich verse because Jesus says when we live the truth we become His disciples, and if we are His disciples then we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. Therefore, the truth is not just not lying. It is an important aspect of becoming a disciple of Jesus. When we live in the sphere of truth, we live in a relationship with Him who is the truth.
Of course, the truth is not easy, because it takes discipline to discover the truth, it takes courage to live the truth, and it takes perseverance to remain strong when people oppose us for speaking the truth. In addition to these, today’s readings cover at least three additional aspects of the truth. First, the truth is worth it, second, the truth transcends age or time, and third, the truth is not just what we say, it is also what we do.
Saint Paul tells St. Timothy “this saying is true and worthy of full acceptance” (1 Tim. 4:9). He reminds us the truth is worth it. Has this been your experience in life? Have you found it worthwhile to speak and live the truth?
Around 30 years ago, I bought a racing bicycle and the guy at the counter charged me a $100 too little. I told him he made a mistake on the price and he thought that I was telling him that he overcharged me. I told him he wrote the wrong model number and undercharged me by $100. I still remember the startled look on his face as he knew I could have easily paid $100 less.
Because I had previously made a conscious decision not to lie, it was an easy decision to speak the truth even though I did not have to or could have gotten away with it. I decided that my integrity was worth more than a $100 and I have remembered that incident during other difficult decisions.
Coincidentally, around 10 years after, when I bought a mountain bike, a different guy, at a different store, in a different city, also made the same mistake and wrote a bill for $100 less than the actual price. I also told the person who wrote the bill to make the correction. It was worth it, the first time, it was worth it the second time, and if it ever happens again it will be worth it again. We all have to decide whether the truth is worth it.
Second, the truth transcends age or time. St. Paul tells St. Timothy: “Let no one despise your young age” (1 Tim. 4:12). And Zacchaeus, who is an elderly man, climbs the tree to discover the truth that Jesus offers. This reminds us, the truth is for the young and for the old. It is for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
It is very common today to dismiss basic morals as “old fashioned.” What we believe as true morally cannot be called old fashioned because it has never been in fashion. Specifically, in today’s epistle St. Paul tells St. Timothy to focus on love, faith, spirituality, and chastity. I can’t think of a time in human history when love, faith, spirituality, and chastity have either been easy or popular. These were never in fashion for them to be considered today as old fashioned. Society can set aside old technology and progress, but when we set aside basic morals we regress as individuals and as a society. The principles the Bible teaches us are applicable to every age group, in every culture, in every time up until the end of time.
The third aspect is that we both speak and live the truth. St. Paul tells St. Timothy: “set the believers an example in speech and conduct” (:12). He adds: “attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, and to teaching” (:13). He also says “practice these duties, and devote yourself to them” (:15). Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. He was so active in his pursuit that he, a wealthy and elderly man, was willing to humiliate himself and climb up a tree. The truth is not just an idea, it is what we say and do, it is what we read, preach, and teach, and it is what we practice and devote ourselves to.
The truth will set us free, but it will also cause us some hardship. The truth will set us free, but it will also get us uninvited from some parties. The truth will set us free, but we might also get unfriended. The truth will set us free, but some people may not want to hear about it. The truth will set us free, but it won’t be easy. The truth will set us free, but it might cost us an extra 100 or more dollars. But, the truth is worth it because character and integrity either grows or vanishes with every little or large decision we make.
Therefore, if a little child asks: “Do you ever lie?” you can say “I do my best not only to not lie, but also to live and know the truth, because Jesus who is the truth wants to know the truthful me. This is what it means to be a true and active disciple of Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life.