2020-03-22 Father François Beyrouti's Homily:"Is there Peace in Your In-vironment"
This is the link to the homily for Sunday, March 22, 2020: https://youtu.be/oH3DppqCwME
The full readings and homily are below.
With my prayers for you and your family.
Is there Peace in Your In-vironment?
Sunday, March 22, 2020 homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
Hebrews 6:13-20. Mark 9:17-31.
Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast. Sunday of St. John Climacus.
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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. Hebrews 6:13-20.
Brethren, when God made his promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you, and will surely multiply you.” And so, after patient waiting, Abraham obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and an oath given as a guarantee is the final settlement of all their disagreements. Hence God, meaning to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the firmness of his will interposed an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to deceive, we may have the strongest comfort ― we who have sought refuge in holding fast the hope set before us. This hope we have as a sure and firm anchor of the soul, reaching even behind the veil where our forerunner Jesus has entered for us, as he became a high priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.
Gospel. Mark 9: 17-31.
At that time one of the crowd came to Jesus and bowed to him saying: “Master, I have brought to you my son, who has a dumb spirit; and whenever it seizes him it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth; and he is wasting away. And I told your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” And he, answering him, said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought him to him; and the spirit, when it saw Jesus, immediately threw the boy in convulsions, and he fell down on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth. So he asked his father, “How long is it since this has come upon him?” And he said, “From his infancy. Oftentimes, it has thrown him into the fire and into the waters to destroy him. But if you can do anything have compassion on us and help us.” But Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to the man of faith.” At once the father of the boy cried out and said with tears, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, go out of him and enter him no more.” And crying out and violently convulsing him, it went out of him, and he became like one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him and he stood up. And when he had come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind can be cast out in no way except by prayer and fasting.” And leaving that place, they were passing through Galilee, and he did not wish anyone to know it. For he was teaching his disciples, and saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and having been killed, he will rise again on the third day.”
Are you at peace?
It’s probably hard to be at peace today.
The 40 million people in California and millions in other states and countries are in some degree of lockdown. Every day we hear of new cases of the corona virus somewhere around the world or even around the corner.
If we try to shop we find some stores closed, a scarcity of food and other necessary items, and even fights at the grocery stores. To make matters worse, the stock market has crashed, schools have been dismissed, people can’t go to work, and many families have great concerns about their health and financial future.
There are many very good reasons to be worried, but are you at peace? Is peace even possible at a time like this?
Peace is in our environment, the things around us, but more important it is rooted in our “in-vironment,” the emotions in us.
As followers of Jesus, peace is very important. Jesus often spoke of both external and inner peace. The prophecy of Isaiah which described the characteristics of the Messiah, identified Him as the prince of Peace who would usher in a reign of external and inner peace. We read in Isaiah 9:6. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ ”
With the birth of Jesus, there is a specific emphasis on external peace. In Luke 2:13-14, we read: “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
In His ministry, Jesus showed his power over the environment. In Mark 4:39, we read “He showed His power over the wind. Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
Although we often only focus on external, peace, Jesus more importantly wants us to also have inner peace despite the conditions around us.
In Matt.5:9, Jesus reminds us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus told the woman who anointed His feet: “Your sins are forgiven. …  Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 2:48). In John 16:33, Jesus says “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus wants us to experience both kinds of peace. At the level of external peace, we have to work as hard as we can for there to be peace in our neighborhoods and in the world. Also, those in the health care, financial, and political fields have to do their part to assure safety and peace in the world. These may affect our inner peace, but can never take our inner peace which is rooted in God’s love and presence in us.
At the level of internal peace, our “in-vironment,” instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we can be grateful for what we have. What are we grateful for? Are we grateful for the blessings of our family? Are we grateful for the food we have? Are we grateful for our friends, teachers, co-workers, and all the other people in our life?
Are we grateful for the spiritual gifts and talents God has given us? Are we using this time to grow in them? How is our prayer life? Do we give God the time He deserves? The corona virus can’t stop us from appreciating the many blessings in us and around us.
If all we can focus on are the things around us that are not going well, then we will never have inner peace, because we will be searching for comfort in the wrong things. No war, social disturbance, sickness, can disrupt our inner peace.
Each and everyone of us has a spiritual hunger that only God can fill. St. Augustine lived far away from God most of his life before he realized that all earthly pleasure and comfort are empty. Finally, after a long journey back home to his Catholic faith, he said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you o Lord.”
When we search for comfort and pleasure only in what is around us, the irony is that we will get even more frustrated because earthly comfort can only bring us a very limited kind of happiness. We should work for peace within our society but first we must make sure that we have inner peace. It is important to see that peace has both inner and external elements to know that no external peace should be able to disrupt our inner peace.
Today, God is intervening in the lives of those working for external peace, for peace in our communities, for peace in our health-care system. We are reminded of 2 Chronicles 20:15, when the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel, and he said, “Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God's.’”
Therefore, are you at peace?
We can only be at peace if we are looking for the right kind of peace that is rooted in God’s love and presence in us.
In closing let us keep in mind, that God’s peace is different than the one we usually seek. Jesus tells us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).