2016-09-11 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Navigating through Life with the Joy of the Cross.
Sunday, September 11, 2016. Homily. Father François Beyrouti.
Navigating through Life with the Joy of the Cross. Sunday Before the Holy Cross.
Gospel: Sunday before the feast of the Holy Cross. John 3:13-17.
The Lord said, “No one has gone up into heaven except the One Who has come down from heaven: the Son of Man Who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that those who believe in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God did not send His Son into the world in order to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
If you have ever gone kayaking in a river you know that you need both a good kayak and a good paddle.
The last thing you want is a hole in your kayak or to get stuck up a river with no paddle.
A good kayak ensures that you don’t sink and a good paddle helps you navigate the changing currents and conditions of the river.
Yes, you might be able to take your paddle out of the water and cruise down for a few minutes but if you are not watching carefully you will either hit a rock, get washed ashore, or even worse find yourself going off a waterfall.
Just as a good kayak and a good paddle are essential to navigate through the rough waters and changing currents of a river so too in our spiritual life we need at least two important elements: a good personality and lots of virtue.
Like a kayak, a good personality helps us remain above the waters of life’s constant distractions and temptations and like a good paddle, virtue helps us direct our life and make the right choices despite the currents that are working against us.
We cannot live a healthy spiritual life if we do not develop a balanced personality that regularly makes good decisions despite how difficult these trials may be.
The key to kayaking is that to stay in control despite the changing conditions of the river and the key to a healthy spiritual life is to stay in control of our emotions and actions and not get swept away by the unhealthy pressures and the temptations of comfort.
Today is the Sunday before the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. But what does kayaking have to do with the cross?
We think of Jesus as having a journey and a destination: his life, teachings, and miracles were the journey and His death and resurrection were the destination.
However we sometimes overlook that Jesus did not just cruise down the river of life, but navigated through it with great difficulty.
Jesus had fun during His life. He went to a wedding banquet and changed water into wine, healed people who were sick, forgave sinners, and spoke to thousands of people.
But He also had people chase Him out of the synagogue and want to throw Him off cliffs.
How was Jesus able to survive through all these emotional currents and dangers?
Jesus reminded Himself every day that He did not come to earth for comfort but for service; and when we serve each other we quickly realize that service is tough and requires daily sacrifice.
The only reason Jesus was able to remain strong throughout His life and to embrace the cross as His ultimate sign of love for us is that He made good decisions throughout His life and maintained His self-control despite all the difficult situations He passed through.
Jesus did not run away from the cross but embraced it. He says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep……I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:11, 17-18).
Jesus knew that His crucifixion was not an accident or a trap. Jesus chose and accepted the agony of the cross in order to bring about our full restoration through His resurrection.
Today’s Gospel reading also emphasizes that Jesus chose the cross so that we can see His love for us and not run away from our own cross. Jesus says: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).
Jesus told us He loves us and chose the suffering of the cross to show us that He loves us. If Jesus had preferred convenience and ran away from the suffering of the cross He would have died peacefully in old age but lived miserably.
What we all have to realize on a daily basis is that Jesus saved the world through the agony of the cross and the joy of the resurrection. Without the sacrifice of the cross there would not have been a resurrection.
This reminds us that in our lives we can above all other things seek pleasure, power, or a sense of importance, but these will not last. Even worse they will hurt us. However, if above all other things we seek to develop our personality and to make better choices, then a healthier and longer lasting kind of pleasure, a well-balanced power, and a truer sense of importance will follow.
These will follow if we do the right thing but if all we do is seek these then the right things will not follow.
The world surrounds us with temptations of pleasure and comfort. However, the greatest irony in life is that when we search for pleasure and comfort all we end up with are frustrations and addictions. Yet when we commit our lives to sacrifice and service we will have temporary discomfort but a healthy and well-balanced personality and a deep sense of happiness and joy.
On a trip down a river we will find dangerous rocks that can sink us, streams that can take us in different directions, and waterfalls that can kill us. We cannot survive if we do not have a good kayak, a good paddle, and if we are not paying attention.
We can think of our life like a journey down a river. The essentials of that journey of faith consist of seeking to grow more solid in our faith in the cross. This will not only make us stronger but will help us, above all other things, find true peace and joy in God’s love.
A good kayak, a good paddle, and good decisions will make sure that we have a wonderful day on the river. A good personality, a daily practice of good actions, and good decisions will make sure that every day is a blessed day that accepts the cross in order to experience the glorious joy of the resurrection.
Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870