Welcome to the Second Sunday after the Feast of the Glorious Epiphany. In this week’s Gospel passage, we continue to see John directing his followers towards Jesus, “the Lamb of God.” Andrew and an un-named man follow Jesus until he turns and starts a conversation with them. This classic scene reminds us of our vocation. Having experienced the attraction of Jesus, Andrew goes and informs his brother Simon Peter, who then comes to meet Jesus. This encounter between Jesus and Peter changed the history of the world.
The first words that Jesus spoke in this passage was a simple question: “What are you looking for?” or “What do you want?” Jesus asks about our desires so that he can respond to them. It is so important that we know and understand what we want. To be able to do this we must understand who we are. When I understand who I am, in my strengths and my weaknesses, in my good and my bad, I can come to Him and know exactly what I want from Him because there is one thing that is for sure, He knows exactly who I am. Therefore, I should not be afraid to come as I am with all my hopes, with all my fears and with all my desires and He will say to me: “You Are” who you are, and I love you abundantly.
Let us all come to Him this year and let it be a renewed journey of faith in the Lord. Let us truly come to Him with our all and not be afraid. Let us ask Him to invite us to see where He can be found, and to remain with Him. More so, let us ask Him to look at us in the same way that He looked at Simon Peter so that like Peter we too can change the world through Christ and through Christ alone.
On a parish note, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the members of the Sodality and their chaplain Father Youwakim who worked tirelessly last week preparing the feast of the Epiphany sweets and savouries. These hard-working men and women worked for hours, even on the day of the feast preparing and allowing us to experience this beautiful tradition. May the Lord’s presence in your lives always be everlasting so that you can continue to glorify Him in all that you do.
This week our Teens and their leaders went on their annual camp. Nearly seventy teens and over twenty leaders together with their chaplain Deacon Danny reflected on the year of Martyrdom and Martyrs in the Maronite Church and lived the theme of Courage. A big thank you to AJ Stephan and all the leaders who have been preparing for months, working behind the scenes to make the camp an enjoyable as well as a deeply spiritual experience for the teens. A special thank you to Matthew Semaan who was the key-note speaker at the camp.
Finally, next week we begin with the three weeks of Commemorations, starting with the Commemoration of the Priests. Before we begin our Lenten journey, it is very important that we reflect on the people who have past and commemorate their memory in the Church. When we understand and appreciate our past, we can truly look to our future with the faith, hope and love of those we were before us.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Happy New Year! Thanks-be-to-God for the many graces that He has bestowed upon us in 2017 and we ask His blessing upon 2018. I pray that this year will be a very fruitful year for you and your families as we all continue our spiritual journey towards the Kingdom that awaits us.
The Christmas and New Year period is always a wonderful time for families to get together and enjoy the season. It is also a period of rest, relaxation and fun. Many of our families take time-off during this time to enjoy the beautiful weather, but most of all enjoy each other. It is so important that we have this time to firstly refresh and rejuvenate ourselves for the year ahead and to experience memorable moments with our loved ones. I hope that everyone is enjoying the break and each other.
On Saturday, we began the Season of the Glorious Epiphany of the Lord. Through this feast we celebrate the baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. At this Baptism, we celebrate the appearance or manifestation of Christ among us as God’s Son and revelation of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Feast of the Epiphany is the Feast of humility par excellence. Jesus, the Divine Son of God, humbled himself and was baptised by John the Baptist in the Jordan River like everyone else at the time. The Prayer of Forgiveness from the Maronite Ritual for Baptism proclaims it beautifully: “Although you had no need to do so, in your compassion you came and were baptized, sanctifying the waters of the Jordan. O Son of Majesty, you bowed your head before John the Baptist, while the Father called out from on high: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased!””
Jesus bowed His head and was baptised as the ultimate sign of humility by John the Baptist who was a symbol of humility himself. He lived an extraordinary humble life and prepared the way for Jesus, exclaiming “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). As we begin this New Year and celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, let us reflect on the humility of Jesus and John the Baptist and learn from them how to live a life that is pleasing to God. Let us think about the ways in which we can decrease so that He can increase!
The food that we prepare during this great feast is also very humble. Comprising of flour, water and oil (and sugar for the sweet-tooth), our beloved mothers and fathers kept the Maronite tradition of the Epiphany pastries, Zlaabyi and Awamet, alive in the parish. They have worked very hard on preparing these sweets and savouries for us to enjoy as we greet one another by saying “Deyim, Deyim”.
Last weekend I was very fortunate to attend the annual family retreat between Christmas and New Year. Twelve families attended the retreat this year and the theme was “The Family: a treasure for the Church”. Thank you to all who organised this retreat. Also, last Saturday our youth celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with their annual party in the church hall. It was a great night, and everyone enjoyed it. Thank you to our MYO team for organising it.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we approach the final weeks of the Season of the Glorious Cross before beginning the new liturgical year, we find that our Lord truly
intensifies his expectations of us as stewards of the gifts that he has entrusted upon us. The parable about the talents is a simple story about a man who is preparing to go on a journey and entrusts his possessions to his servants. He distributes his wealth among three of his servants, giving each in accordance with their abilities. As we hear in the story, the first two invest their master’s wealth and their return is doubled while the third servant does nothing at all. When the master comes back he praises and rewards the first two and condemns the third for being lazy.
Like all the stories of the past few weeks, this story is about us. God, the Heavenly Master, entrusts each one of us with many talents, many abilities, each according to what we can handle. The question for us today is: do we use these talents for the glory of God and the good of His people? Before we can answer this question, we need to discover what talents we possess. We need to identify them, acknowledge them, accept them and be proud of them. God has given each one of us unique skills and abilities. As a family or community, these skills and abilities complement each other in the building of society. Often however, we fail to discover, let alone use these skills and abilities because we are too focussed on the skills and abilities of others. We waste so much time worrying about others and wanting what others have that we forget about ourselves and the wonderful gifts that the Lord has endowed us with. God gives each one of us in accordance with our abilities, He deprives no-one! For this reason, we need to stop worrying about what others have and focus on what we have, utilising our talents in the best possible way and placing them at the service of the Lord and of each other.
On a parish note, Arabic School, Fersen, Teens and Come Alive all resumed for the final semester of this year. We welcome them back and all the leaders who on a weekly basis volunteer their time and talent to serve our children. The Pastoral Council Committee also met this week to evaluate Feast Week and to start preparing for the opening of the liturgical year, Christmas and all the events leading up to this joyous feast. On behalf of all the clergy, I thank all the committees and their coordinators for their ongoing commitment and dedication to the parish, you are all a wonderful example of how faithful stewards activate their talents for the Glory of God and the service of His people.