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2020-02-02 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily:"Tea Time with God."

Dear friends,

This is the link to Sunday's homily: https://youtu.be/zf06h4Ywh2U
The full readings and homily are below.

Tea Time with God.
Sunday, February 2, 2020 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
2 Timothy 3:10-15. Luke 18:10-14.
Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican.

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Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
(714) 985-1710
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Epistle of the Feast of the Entrance of the Lord into the Temple. Hebrews 7:7-17.
Brethren, certainly the lower is blessed by the higher. And in one case indeed mortal men receive tithes, while Scripture testifies that this man lives on. And even Levi, the receiver of tithes, was also, so to speak, through Abraham made subject to tithes (Cf.Gn. 14 :20), for he was still in his father’s loins when Melchisedek met him. If then perfection was by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the Law), what further need was there that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchisedek, and said not to be according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, it is necessary that a change of law be made also. For the one of whom these things are said is from another tribe, from which no one has ever done service at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah (Cf.Is.1 :2), and Moses said nothing at all about priests when referring to this tribe. And it is yet far more evident if there arises another priest, according to the likeness of Melchisedek, who has become so not according to the law of carnal commandment, but according to a life that cannot end. For it is testified of him, You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek (Ps.109 :4).

Gospel: Luke 18: 10-14. The Pharisee and the Publican.
The Lord told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and began to pray thus within himself: ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, robbers, dishonest, adulterers, or even like this publican. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I possess.’ But the publican, standing far off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you; this man went back to his home justified rather than the other; for anyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself shall be exalted.

There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the week, or the year we often wonder “How did time pass by so quickly?”

My grade 12 high school class had a sign that read “Time will pass, will you?” I did pass, but strangely enough that’s one of the few things I remember from grade 12.

Writers, philosophers, and people from all walks of life have reflected on time. Two friends were chatting and one said: “Time is money.” The other said “That is even more true when you are talking to a lawyer.” Time can mean different things to different people.

Everyone and especially religions have speculated on the general notions of time and eternity. Today, the word “mindfulness” has particularly become popular but is not new. All cultures, in one way or another, have emphasized the importance of slowing down and being more mindful of the time we have.

Has anyone here ever experienced a Japanese tea ceremony? I am very fortunate to have attended several. There are very few other things I have experienced that have forced me to be so mindful of the seconds, minutes, and everything around me.

The Japanese tea ceremony is usually an hour but can take up to 4 hours. It takes over 10 years to be certified as a master to learn the over 300 different ceremonies. Every action of both the guest and the master are mindful and particular. The passing of time becomes secondary to the beauty of the ceremony of preparing the water, cleaning the utensils, mixing the tea, admiring the decorations on the bowl, and of course, finally drinking the tea. We have gotten used to doing everything so quickly that we often miss the beauty of the moment, the beauty of the people we are with, and the beauty of the things we are doing.

Prayer and in particular the Divine Liturgy is meant to slow us down so we can appreciate the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, and years God has given us. We sometimes want shorter prayers so we can get on with the rest of our week. Actually, our prayers here in Church should help us be more mindful of God’s presence in our lives, the blessings we have, and the people God has given us because without these, life is meaningless.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about two people who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee brags about how good he is and how bad he thought everyone else is, whereas the Publican bows his head, beats his breast, and says “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Jesus places the actions and words of the publican as an example for us of true prayer, mindfulness, and self-awareness.

In today’s culture that focuses so much on looking good and feeling good, we have forgotten the more important virtue of being good. Cosmetics and fashion are multi-billion dollar industries because they give us the false illusion that how we look is more important than how we are doing on the inside and in relation to others. Unfortunately, the cost of our clothes bears absolutely no relation to the quality of our character. We have to all ask ourselves whether our desire to impress people is simply our way of hiding what is broken and hurt within us.

Jesus challenges us to be mindful of our weakness and to make our own the prayer of the publican: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Jesus does not want us to develop a low level of self-esteem, but He does challenge us to acknowledge that regardless of who we are, we are all broken inside and have room for growth. It is only when we recognize our brokenness that prayer makes any sense. If we are perfect we don’t need God. However, when we recognize we are not perfect, it is only then that we can be humble before God and invite Him to heal and restore us.

The Japanese tea ceremony may help people be mindful for up to four hours but the Divine Liturgy and our daily prayers remind us to be mindful of both our strengths and weaknesses every minute of our day and every day of our week.

“God, be merciful to me a sinner” or the longer form “Lord, Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner” now called the Jesus prayer is the heart of the Catholic and Orthodox monastic tradition because those who dedicate their entire lives to a life of constant prayer need to first recognize that authentic prayer to God flows from a recognition of their broken humanity. This prayer has been used in connection with our breathing so we can be aware that every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every year is a gift from God. How many of these have we missed, how many of these have we misused, and how many of these are we grateful for?

Close your eyes and repeat this prayer while being mindful of your breathing and heartbeat: “Lord, Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner.” We can speculate about how time passes. However, before we regret that we do not to have enough time, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing with the time we actually have?

There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. How much of that time do we use to acknowledge and work on our weaknesses? How much of that time do we work on being mindful of the gifts God has given us? And how much of that time do we thank God for the gifts of the people we have in our life?

Mindfulness in the Christian tradition not only focuses on being aware of the passing of time but on being aware that every second and every gift takes place in time. What better way to spend our time than being grateful to God who gave us His time and gives us time to love Him.


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