2020-02-16 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily:"Lentil Soup Recipe to Get to Heaven."
This is the link to Sunday's homily: https://youtu.be/SLkELAeSCSU
Lentil Soup Recipe to Get to Heaven.
Sunday, February 16, 2020 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2. Matthew 25:31-46.
Meat Fare Sunday. The Last Judgment.
The full readings and homily are below.
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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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Epistle: 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 & 9:1-2.
Brethren, food does not commend us to God. For neither shall we gain any advantage if we eat, nor suffer any loss if we do not. And yet, beware lest perhaps this right of yours become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if a man sees you who “have knowledge” sitting at table in a place dedicated to idols, will not his conscience, weak as it is, be emboldened to eat idol offerings? And through your “knowledge” the weak one will perish, the brother for whom Christ died. Now, when you sin in this way against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food scandalizes my brother, I will never again eat any more meat so as not to scandalize my brother. Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? And if to others I am not an apostle, yet to you I am. For you are the seal set upon my apostleship in the Lord.
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46.
The Lord said, “At that time when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory; and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the just will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you to drink? And when did we see you a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ And answering, the King will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, every time you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left hand, ‘Go away from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his ministers. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life.”
As I was growing up I would watch with fascination as my mother prepared lentil soul. I quickly realized how many important steps there are to make a good bowl of lentil soup. My mother would measure the amount of lentils needed, put them in a large tray, then begin to separate the lentils from the debris and anything else that may have been mixed in with the bag.
Today bags of lentils come much cleaner than they used to, but you still have to go through the separation process before you begin cooking your lentil soup, otherwise you’re going to accidentally include some mystery ingredients in your lentil soup.
Separating lentils from non-lentils is a tedious process and we might even feel cheated because we paid for something that we are throwing away. However, if we put everything in the pot without separating and washing, then we will never be able to make a good bowl of lentil soup.
Separating the good from the bad, the clean from the dirty, the real from the make believe is something that we do every day and the consequences of that separation are much greater than a good bowl of lentil soup.
Today is meat-fare Sunday (Ahad-Marfa’ al-laham) which traditionally is the last day of eating meat until Easter Sunday. Next week is cheese-fare Sunday (Ahad-Marfa’ al-jibn) which traditionally is the last day of eating dairy products until Easter Sunday. In order for us not to think that the point of Fasting is about food, today we read a passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he states: “Neither shall we gain any advantage if we eat, nor suffer any loss if we do not” (1 Corinthians 8:8).
Rather this gradual preparation of meat-fare, cheese-fare, and the period of the Great Fast itself is intended to help us focus on the process of separation in the decisions we make, and even more than this how we are changed by each decision we make.
If we lie we are liars, if we steal we are thieves, and if we avoid work we are lazy. However, on the positive side, if we tell the truth we are honest, if we listen to others we are patient, and if we accept our shortcomings we are humble. Therefore, this focus on decisions is not just about external decisions, but on how those external decisions actually change who we are. We are what we are doing and we are what we are living: for good or for bad.
This is the focus of today’s Gospel. Jesus uses the analogy of the sheep and goats to show that there will be a separation between those who did good and those who avoided doing good. Jesus says: “I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:35).
Jesus then adds that those who did these things will be placed on the right hand and welcomed by the words: “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” and those who avoided doing good will be placed on the left hand and told: “Go away from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his ministers. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.”
These may seem like harsh words coming from the mouth of Jesus and very often when people speak about what happens when we die, they focus on God judging us. However, as Jesus presents it here, God separates us based on what we have chosen to become. It is important to take responsibility for the things that we do and realize that every decision we make moves us in the direction of becoming sheep or becoming goats.
Sometimes people like to speak about the “wrath of God” or the “vengeance of God.” This in a sense makes us feel better about ourselves because if things go wrong in our life or in the world we can easily blame it on the wrath of God. If there are wars around the world or community shootings the easy way to explain it is blame God for it. However, God has not started any wars, created any famines, or appeared on a campus with a gun. We run away from our responsibilities to make this world a better place when we blame God on the bad things that happen either to us or to our world.
Also, after we die if we think that God will judge us in a random way depending on how He is feeling that day we miss the whole point of our life. It would not really be heaven or hell if God sends us there. Sometimes people say that if God wants to send me to hell that’s ok with me. However, this is an insult to God because God does not send anyone to hell. Rather, we send ourselves to hell by appearing before God in a form that He does not recognize.
God separates the good from the bad only in the sense that God respects the decisions we have made that led us to become what we have become. The reason why we speak of hell as being a place of pain and punishment is because we had a whole lifetime to choose to become like the sheep but we chose instead to become like the goats. There is great pain in knowing that we have become something we should not have become and something that we could have easily avoided. Hell is hell because we choose it and heaven is heaven because we have allowed the work of God to grow in us.
This period of preparation for Great Lent, reminds us that the decisions we have made have made us who we are. The good news is that the decisions we will make will make us who we want to be. It is important for us to move out of auto-pilot and to see a clear relationship between what we have done and what we have become, then realize that there is a direct relationship between what we do and what we become.
I’m sure that none of our mothers would ever put debris and rocks in lentil soup. We have to be careful when we make lentil soup simply because the things in the bag that are not lentils need to be separated from the real lentils to make real lentil soup.
Also, for us to remain real we have to always be careful of the choices we make. We all have been created in the image and likeness of God and we are all living temples of the Holy Spirit. Our daily choices help us grow and reflect that blessed glory.