Change Is Useless If….Sunday, May 3, 2020. homily by Father François Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th.
This is the link to Sunday’s homily: https://youtu.be/np9cEZhvFe0
Change Is Useless If…
Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Acts 9:32-42. John 5:1-15.
Sunday of the Paralytic.
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Monday-Friday. 11:00-11:20 a.m. Daily Prayers on Facebook live and Youtube live. Visit: YouTube.com/HolyCrossMelkite or Facebook.com/HolyCrossMelkite
Monday and Thursday. 5:00-6:00 p.m. Open to all age groups and families. P.R.A.Y. and Dialogue through the Gospel of St. Luke, led by Fr. François Beyrouti. Zoom meeting link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86256912606 or call: (669) 900-9128. Meeting ID: 862 5691 2606.
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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 Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9:32-42)
In those days it came to pass that Peter, while visiting all of them, came to the saints living at Lydda. And he found there a certain man named Aeneas who had been lying in bed for eight years, since he was a paralytic. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ is healing you: get up and make your bed.” And he got up immediately. And all the inhabitants of Lydda and the plain of Sharon saw him, and they were converted to the Lord. Now in Joppa there was a certain woman disciple named Tabitha, which translated means Dorcas, and she devoted herself to good works and almsgiving. But it happened at that time that she fell ill and died: and they washed her and laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda is close to Joppa, the disciples, hearing Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Come to us without delay.” “And Peter got up and went with them, and on his arrival, they led him to the upper room, and all the widows stood around him weeping, showing him the gowns and cloaks Dorcas used to make for them. But Peter, putting them all out, knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” And she opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. Then Peter gave her his hand and raised her up, and calling the saints and the widows, he gave her back to them alive. And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to St. John the Evangelist. (John 5:1-15)
At that time Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem, by the pool of the sheep, a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these were lying a great multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and those with shriveled limbs, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel of the Lord used to come down at certain times into the pool and the water was stirred. And the first to go down into the pool after the stirring of the water was cured of whatever infirmity he had. Now a certain man was there who had been thirty-eight years under his infirmity. When Jesus “saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in this state a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred; for while I am coming another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet and walk.” And at once the man was cured. And he took up his pallet and began to walk. Now that day was a Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; you are not allowed to take up the pallet.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your pallet and walk’ “They asked him then, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet and walk?’ “But the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd in the place. Afterwards Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, you are cured. Sin no more, lest something worse happen to you. The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
Change. The word “change” excites many people because many assume that when you change something you are changing for the better. Unfortunately, this is often not true.
When someone takes on a new position, they often say “There are going to be some changes around here.” They guarantee “changes,” but can’t guarantee that those changes are going to make anyone’s life better.
Also, during every election, politicians promise the same thing: “change.” People vote for politicians who promise change, regardless of how vague that concept may be. The word “change” is exciting and has a sense of hope but often leads to disappointment if it is not based on a real plan.
After one politician was forced to resign everyone said: “He promised us change and we got it. When he was elected, we had $100 bills in our pockets and now all we have is change.”
We all want to change something in our life, but the key is to know what to change and how to change it.
A doctor told a man that he needs to change his drinking habits or he will die in one month. The man agreed and went home and told his wife: “Whiskey and ice are damaging my liver,” “Vodka and ice are damaging my kidneys,” and “Scotch and ice are damaging my pancreas. I’m going to make some important changes in my life. Starting right now, I’m going to stop putting ice in my drinks.” This was a change, but it wasn’t exactly the change he needed to make.
The Gospel offers us change, but not just any change. There are actually two kinds of change, “lateral change” when we’re simply moving from side to side and changing one equally bad thing for another. Then there is “progressive change” where we are moving forward in clear steps. With this kind, what we need to change and the consequences of this change are well thought out and lead to real progress and growth.
Lateral change is the insignificant change we make in our life like buying new cloths or styling or coloring our hair in a new way. These may change how we look but don’t actually change us in any real way. Unfortunately, these sometimes give us the delusion of importance and distract us from the real changes we need to make in our life. Progressive change is much more difficult and this is what the good news of Jesus Christ always challenges us to focus on.
In today’s readings we don’t see lateral change, we see progressive change in three lives. First, Aeneas had been lying in bed for eight years because he was paralyzed. St. Peter heals Aeneas who then begins to walk.
We also heard the story of Tabitha who died. The Acts of the Apostles tells us: “Peter knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, rise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40).
Third, Jesus has a conversation with a man who was paralyzed for 38 years. The Gospel of John tells us: “Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked” (John 5:8-9).
Prior to their healing, Aeneas, Tabitha, and the paralyzed man had experienced lateral change as people moved them from one place to the other, but their encounter with Jesus and Peter led to progressive change that did not only change their location but actually changed their situation. Changing our location is easy, changing our situation takes much more planning, time, effort, and discipline.
Today’s readings show us that the different aspects of prayer help us make progressive change possible in our life. Notice the steps. When Peter prayed, he knelt down, humbled himself, spent time in quiet, and realized that God has the power to do anything. Not only did Peter heal Tabitha, but after this miracle “it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42). The life of Tabitha and many others changed in real ways. When we read these stories we often only focus on the healing and overlook the stages that led to these miracles.
For progressive change to take place, we need to identify the problem, humble ourselves, believe, completely depend on God, and be patient. We see all these elements throughout the Gospels.
Prayer is always a humble conversation with God. We can’t be afraid to talk to God and we can’t be afraid when God talks to us. Before Jesus healed the paralyzed man, he told Jesus his condition, his problem, and what he wanted. Jesus asks him a very important question; which Jesus also asks us every time we pray: “Do you want to be healed?” (Acts 9:6)
The man who had a drinking problem and only gave up ice, instead of giving up whiskey, vodka, and scotch did not really want to be healed and sometime we’re not ready for real change.
Prior to his conversion, Saint Augustine lived a life that was far away from God and he knew he needed to change. He famously said, “Lord, make me sexually pure, but not yet!” He honestly admitted to God that he had a problem. It is ok, actually it is absolutely necessary, to admit that we have a weakness or a problem before we can work on it. Finally, after his conversion he felt the full joy of this new way of life with God. He said: “My heart was restless until it rested in you O God.”
In other words, I was searching and I was changing relationships, positions, friends, but through all this did not make any real change in my life.
Since we live in a society where things that harm us are easily available and often encouraged, it is easy to develop addictions to gambling, pornography, alcohol, drugs, or anything else that gives us a temporal fix but also a much deeper agony. But how do we change?
Whether we have small things we want to change in our life like anger and impatience or the larger things that may be paralyzing us, Jesus tells us to clearly identify what we want to change, never be in denial, and make concrete steps for real progressive change in our lives.
The latest fashions offer us change, politicians offer us change, beauty products offer us change, and things we buy offer us change. But all these are only lateral change from one thing to another that will not change us in a significant way.
Jesus offers us progressive change that we cannot buy, put on, or pretend to have.
We will see real progressive change in our lives when we are patient with the important stages of change that we read in today’s readings.
Real change is only possible when we have a daily conversation with Jesus, when we humble ourselves, when we are honest to look at our weaknesses, and when we are committed with very practical steps to overcome them.
This kind of change will result in real changes in our life because Jesus’ love and commitment to us will never change.