and grow like a cedar of Lebanon
الصديق كالنخل يزهر، ومثل أرز لبنان ينمي
Brothers and Sisters,
In this week’s Gospel, our Lord gives us a new commandment: “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This new commandment is arguably one of the most famous statements in the Bible. This command is new not only because of its object, but also because of its measure. The measure of love is, “as I have loved you.” In other words, in the same way that Jesus loves us and not as the world loves us. That is, in a sacrificial, humble, and intentional and concrete way. A love that is given without the expectation of anything in return!
This is the kind of love that reminds us of the love that our mothers have for us. In the example of our Blessed Mother, our mothers continually give of themselves without asking for anything in return. On this special occasion of Mother’s Day, I would like to wish all of our Mother’s a happy and blessed Mother’s Day. Thank you for all that you do for us. Thank you for your abundant love and compassion.
Last night our Annual Gala Dinner took place at the La Montage Function Centre and what a night it was. In my speech, I likened Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral Parish to a complex bee-hive of activity. As you know, a beehive’s purpose is to protect the dweller. Its internal structure is a densely packed group of hexagonal cells made from beeswax and in it hundreds and hundreds of bees work together to make honey. If you come to our Lady of Lebanon on any given day, you will see the same thing. You will see hundreds and hundreds of people working and cooperating together not to make honey, but rather to proclaim and live the Word of God. It is through this that its dwellers, the parishioners and friends of Our Lady of Lebanon are truly protected.
Through over 22 committees and groups, you will find people of all ages and generations working together for people of all ages and generations and off-course for the Glory of God with Christ at the centre and the mantle of Our Lady’s motherly love caressing her children. The Community, Youth and Pastoral Centre facilitates this spirit and the funds that are raised at the Gala go towards the repayments and maintenance of this centre.
I would like to thank all those who helped make the night a success from the organising committee led by Father Raphael, to the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Sponsors, to the Corporate Sponsors, Associations and Committee and to all our beloved parishioners who without them this spiritual bee-hive would have no meaning and no existence. Thank you one and all.
Brothers and Sisters,
The question “do you love me?” is probably the most asked question of all time. Even if we don’t ask this question verbally, I’m sure that most of us think about it all the time. In this week’s Gospel, we find Jesus asking Peter this very question not once, but three times. Although it seems that Peter gets very frustrated with Jesus for repeating the same question three times, it is a wonderful expression of Jesus’ linguistic mastery. In commissioning Peter to be the head of his Church, Jesus uses the oratory art of repetition to emphasise the importance of what he is asking Peter. What makes the question more powerful is the addition of “more than these.” Jesus is giving us a formula if you like of his expectation of us. Through Peter, he is asking us if we love him more than everything else in our lives; ourselves, spouses, parents, children, friends, relatives, careers, possessions, our pride, etc. If our answer is yes, then we too are also commissioned to “tend” and “feed” his flock.
This reminds me of a famous colloquial Lebanese expression which we often say to our loved ones, “Toukbourni.” Literally, it means “bury me”, however the expression rather means “I love you to death.” We use this term often, however do we really understand its value or know what it truly means? To love someone to death is to love in the same way that our Lord loves us, because he loved us so much that he physically died for us. Are we prepared to do the same for those that we love? To love someone involves wanting to be with them night and day. It means that you just can’t get enough of them. You think and talk about them constantly. Your whole world revolves around them. You will do anything for them even if it means compromising yourself. You don’t want to displease or disappoint them. You are moved to tears when you think about them and especially when you feel that they have hurt you. To love someone means that you would put your own feelings, your own pride, your own word and even your own dignity to the side. To love someone means that you would die to yourself for them.
Therefore, in order to love Jesus “more than these” we must first learn to love those that are around us “more than these.” In Amoris Laetitia, the Pope introduces a new way of doing this. It is an attitude of accompaniment and discernment. I will be speaking more about this in this corner in the coming weeks.
On a parish note, we had a very busy week last week with the Teens camp, Fersen Fete and English Faith Formation talk on Pornography. Thank you to all our wonderful committees who work extremely hard to ensure that our parish continues to be a hub of faith and love which always responds to our Lord’s call to follow him and only him. \
Brothers and Sisters,
We continue to encounter Jesus through his post-resurrection appearances and this week we encounter him with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. One of the most beautiful Gospel accounts, the Emmaus story calls us to really examine our relationship with Jesus. We need to ask ourselves: “do we know Jesus?” This question reminds me of a very famous Lebanese saying: “Do you know him…he said yes! But have you had a relationship with him…he said no!” Therefore if one has not had a relationship with the other, then how can they truly know them? This is the same with Jesus.
In this week’s Gospel, Saint Luke allows us to discover Jesus with the two disciples. They did not know who he was to begin with, yet, the more they got to know him, the more they wanted him to stay with them. In spite of their confusion and fear, Jesus’ presence brought them peace and security. The real Epiphany however did not take place until the end when they discovered him in the Eucharist. When we spend time with Jesus, this also brings us peace and security. Many times in our lives we lose hope and feel helpless because of the crosses that we carry. However time with Jesus brings into our lives the light of his Resurrection which dispels the sorrow, pain and guilt and removes the darkness. We have the opportunity to discover Jesus every day through our daily Masses and through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each Thursday night at 8.00pm.
Now that the peak of the Season of the Resurrection has gone, I have had a little time to resume my spiritual reading on Mercy and the Saints. This week I’ve discovered Saint John Bosco or Don Bosco as he is commonly known. Don Bosco was a pioneer in establishing education structures that were based on preventive systems in Italy. He had the gift of combining the severity of reprimand and discipline with the sweetness of a smile. Here again the two notions of justice and mercy go hand in hand exemplifying the just and merciful God. Don Bosco lived and died by an oath that he made to his students: “I promised God that until my last breath I will have lived for my poor young people. I study for you. I work for you. I am also ready to give my life for you. Take note that whatever I am; I have been so entirely for you, day and night, morning and evening, at every moment.” Doesn’t this remind us of Jesus and the two disciples on the trip to Emmaus? It is as if Jesus is speaking to us through this oath as he does through all the Saints. Let us all make some time in our busy lives to discover Jesus! It is only then will we discover the peace and security that we are yearning for.