2020-03-15 Father Francois Beyrouti's Homily:"Spiritual Control of the Corona Virus."
This is the link to Sunday's homily: https://youtu.be/wBk7ffaNkmE
Spiritual Control of the Corona Virus.
Sunday, March 15, 2020 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Hebrews 4:14-5:6. Mark 8:34-9:1.
Third Sunday of the Great Fast. Sunday of the Holy Cross.
The full homily and readings 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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A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews: 4:14-5:6
Brethren, since we have a great high priest who has passed into the heavens, let us hold fast out profession of faith. For we have not a high priest unable to pity our weaknesses, but one tried as we are in all things, save sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in matters pertaining to God, so that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to have compassion on the ignorant and erring, because he himself also is beset with weakness, and therefore must make offerings for sin in his own behalf as in behalf of the people. And no one invests himself with this honor: only one who is called by God takes it, as Aaron was. So also, Christ did not glorify himself with the high priesthood, but glorified the One who had spoken to him, “You are my son, I this day have begotten you (Ps. 2:7). “As he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek (Ps. 109:4).”
Gospel. Mark 8:34-9:1.
The Lord said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who would save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake and for the sake of Good News will save it. For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes with the holy angels in the glory of his Father.” And he said to them, “Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God coming in power.”
You’re probably sick of hearing about the corona virus. But, hopefully, you’re not actually sick of the corona virus. Unfortunately, you’re not going to avoid hearing about the corona virus simply because you’re here at Church.
There might be a shortage of soap and toilet paper in the stores, but the good news is that for the next few weeks every time you come to Church there will be absolutely no charge for toilet paper or for washing your hands. Please share this good news with your family and friends who are not here today because I’m not sure what it will be like after that. We might have to heed the words of Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who said: “Desperate times require desperate measures.”
Although these are difficult times, I wouldn’t quite call them desperate times. Just like everything else in life, men and women of faith approach and treat difficult situations in a unique way. Especially as Catholic Christians we have a particular Biblical framework for how we view our life here on earth, happiness, suffering, and eternal life. Therefore, in this and every other situation we need to ask ourselves how we should be feeling and what should we be doing.
The first and most import thing to do in every situation is to clearly distinguish between caution and fear. Caution is crucial, whereas fear is useless. In 1 John 4:18 we read: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.” The practical problem with fear is that it takes our attention from focusing on a solution. When we allow fear to take all our energies we have very little energy left to focus on what we should be doing.
The second important thing to do is to educate ourselves act accordingly. 2 Peter 1:5-7 “For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Faith leads us to virtue and knowledge, and these lead us further to self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. In a calm way, we need to look at the research that is available and make the best decisions we can. We cannot be afraid of what we don’t know. Rather, we need to focus on what we do know and act accordingly.
In addition to educating ourselves on the situation, we also need to trust and pray for those working on a cure. People may have made mistakes but it is important to appreciate that despite our challenges many people around the world are living in a much more difficult situation.
I have a hard time panicking because although things could get worse, many people today actually have it worse than we do. Also when you look at things historically, you see that the world has been through many natural, economic, social, and other disasters, and what seemed like a total catastrophe was only part of the longer journey of history.
Our family left Lebanon in 1976 after our house was bombed then shortly after we were robbed. We put everything we could in a taxi, drove to the port in Jounie and took a little boat to Cypress. Although that was a very difficult situation for our family, other families had it much worse. Some lived through 15 years of civil war with times of no water, electricity, food, or other necessities. We could have complained of our situation but if that is all we did then we would have overlooked the health and blessings we have.
We always have to remember that history goes on despite our fears and present difficulties. I heard a story about a situation that Pope John Paul II encountered. One of his assistants woke him up at 3:00 a.m. and told him about a major world event that took place. We don’t know what the event was, but the person who told me the story thinks it might have had to do with something related to the fall of the Soviet Union. Pope John Paul II thanked the person who woke him up. He told him, “Yes, that is a very serious event. I’m going back to sleep because I can’t do anything right now, but I know one thing, I know that Jesus is the Lord of history.” We can also remember this today. Despite what is happening around us and what will happen, Jesus is the Lord of history.
This third Sunday of the Great Fast is dedicated to the Holy Cross. This is meant to remind us that despite the difficulties of prayer and fasting, Jesus always has his hands extended to us. The focus on the cross helps us look beyond the difficulties of fasting and any other difficulties of the past weeks. The celebration of the cross reminds us to look at how we have grown spiritually through fasting and prayer. In addition, our focus on the cross today reminds us to look forward to the glory of the resurrection, which is a celebration of the power of Jesus to conquer all our fears, including death itself.
During all difficult times in history, men and women of faith have gathered to pray. We pray for wisdom and courage to do the right thing. We also pray to remind ourselves of how fragile we are and how dependent we are on God for all things and in all things.
We also pray for humility and a greater appreciation of how fragile we are. We read in Psalm 103:15-16. “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;  for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
We sometimes question the wisdom of God. We think we know more than God who is bigger than anything we can see, while in reality we don’t even know more than a virus that is smaller than anything we can see.
Difficult times as these can be either a cause of great anxiety and fear, or they can be a source of spiritual growth. Exodus 17 is an important passage for monastic communities of men and women who dedicate every day of their entire life to prayer. We read in Exodus 17:11-12. “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.” This passage reminds us that our whole day needs to be a prayer with outstretched hands to God.
As men and women of faith we are cautious but without fear. We seek knowledge not ignorance. And we live humbly, prayerfully, and with an attitude of a total dependence on God.
In conclusion, during these times and any difficult time you may encounter, read Psalm 23. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;  he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;  he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  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 prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Then repeat with confidence Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me.”