2020-02-23 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily:"Are you Saved?"

Dear friends,

This is the link to Sunday's homily: https://youtu.be/hoBr4YuThAw

Below are the full readings and homily.

Are you Saved?
Sunday, February 23, 2020 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Romans 13:11-14:4. Matthew 6:14-21.
Cheese Fare Sunday.

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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: Romans 13:11-14:4.
A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans
Brethren, now our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe. The night is far advanced: the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk becomingly as in daytime, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, pay no attention to its lusts. But whoever is weak in faith, receive him without arguing about opinion. For one believes he may eat all things but another who is weak, let him eat vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who does not; and let not the one who does not eat judge the one who does, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls but he will stand, for God is able to make him stand.


Gospel of Cheese-Fare Sunday, Matthew 6:14-21.
The Lord said, “If you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men there offenses, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses. And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, who disfigure their faces in order to appear to men as fasting. Amen I say to you they have had their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not be seen by men to fast, but by your Father, who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where worm and rodent consume, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither worm nor rodent consumes, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.”

Homily.
Has anyone ever asked you: “Are you saved?” Today we heard a verse from Saint Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Rome: “Our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe” (Romans 13:11). We often use the word “salvation” but what does it really mean? As we live our faith, we need to keep in mind that salvation is not a moment but a journey.

In our daily life we see aspects of salvation when we recognize and are grateful for God’s gifts and blessings in our life. For example, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, Saint Symeon looked at Jesus and said “my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30). He said this because he saw the one who was the salvation of the world.

We begin our salvation here on earth through a definite commitment to faith. We may have many blessings around us, but salvation begins when we appreciate that those blessings are from God. We as Catholics do not believe that being saved is a one-time event but we do believe that we all need to make an active commitment to faith. Baptism is not enough. Baptism does not make us a Christian. It is only the entry into the life of faith, because faith is not a conveyor belt. We will not grow in our faith automatically, accidentally, or against our will. Saint Augustine said: “God created you without your cooperation, but he won’t save you without your cooperation.”

Tomorrow is the first day of Lent. Lent is a short journey that should remind us of our longer life journey of faith. We started our faith journey at baptism but if we have not progressed spiritually since that day, then we are still spiritual babies. When we were baptized someone brought us to Church but as we begin this journey of Lent let us remind ourselves to bring ourselves to Church and to make an active commitment to faith every Sunday and every day.

Take some time today to renew your commitment to Christ. Speak with Jesus as if He is your friend because He is your friend. We are truly on the road of salvation when throughout our day we tell God: “I love you. I thank you. I give my life to you. I am open to your word in my life. I want to live according to your will.”

In order to grow in faith, we need to use active language in our personal conversation with God and not assume we are already saved or that this has already happened by what we said or did in the past. For example, when the archangel Gabriel told Mary that God chose her to be the mother of Jesus the Messiah, Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary clearly proclaimed that she is the servant of the Lord and that she is willing to move in whatever direction God is pointing her.

Regardless of our age, we should all repeat this verse every day. Before we think of what we want to do with our lives whether in regards to school, professions, family life, or business plans we should first clearly tell God that all these things are secondary to doing your will.

Another example of active language is the dialogue that Jesus had with the man whose son was sick. “Jesus said to him, ‘All things are possible to him who believes.’ [24] Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ ” (Mark 9:23-24) When we remind ourselves that we are on a journey of faith we set aside our expectations to be perfect. If we have a hard time understanding aspects of our faith, we need to be honest with God. It is not wrong for us to say “I believe, help my unbelief.”

It is only when we admit our weakness before God that we begin to be open to grow spiritually. I encourage everyone here to make some statement of faith today that reflects that Jesus is at the center of your lives. Tell Jesus where you are: “I love my faith. I have made some mistakes. I am trying to pray.” And tell Jesus where you want to be: “I want my life to be more focused on you. I want to have strength to stand up for my faith. I want your help.”

An active commitment to faith and a regular renewal of that commitment makes sure that we are moving beyond the faith we had as a baby. We all need to ask ourselves: “What stage on the journey of faith am I on?” If we are not praying, if we are not reading Scripture, if we are not doing something spiritual in our life, then we are not actively growing in faith.

Lent is a great time to remind ourselves of this journey. Fasting is intended to remind us that this journey is not easy. There are inconveniences along this journey of faith but these are meant to help us grow. The life of all Olympic gold medal athletes is full of inconveniences. They have to wake up earlier than others, they have to train longer than others, and they have to follow a special diet. If they cannot handle these inconveniences then they will not grow in speed, in strength, and in talent.

Our spiritual life is very much like that. We need to remind ourselves that every physical inconvenience of Lent is for a greater spiritual good. When we inconvenience ourselves by not eating a certain kind of food we strengthen our ability to make better decisions, we strengthen our self-control, and we strengthen our consciousness that we are fully dependent on God.

Proof that we need this is that too often those who say they believe in Jesus are not living a life that is any different than those who do not. Today in the midst of the many available movies, TV programs, advertisements, videos, and entertainers who present many messages that are clearly contrary to our faith, fasting is even more important than it has ever been to help us develop a discerning heart.

Fasting from food is only the first stage that leads us to spiritual growth by fasting our eyes, fasting our mouth, fasting our emotions, and fasting any attachments or desires we have for things that are not fitting for a follower of Christ.

“Our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe” (Romans 13:11). How much nearer is our salvation today than when we first believed? How much nearer do we want to be to Jesus by Easter? We will only be as near as we want and work hard to be.

These upcoming weeks are a perfect time to set clear spiritual goals and to purposely and consistently work towards them.

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