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Celebrating Christian Leadership

Brothers and Sisters,

This week we celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two pillars of the Church. It is a celebration of Christian leadership. These two men laid down the foundation for the Christian community, establishing the Church and encouraging its growth.  As we heard last week, persecution was the order of the day and their task of spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ was not a simple one. Despite these trials and persecutions, these two men built the Church with the holiness of hope, grace and joy. As Pope Francis says, hope, grace and joy are siblings: all of them are gifts from Christ; furthermore they are other names for him that have been inscribed on his body.  

Taking this even further, to be a good leader is also about reflecting the mercy of God. This is exactly what Saints Peter and Paul did. Paul reflected the mercy of God through his words and writings and Peter reflected the mercy of God through his work and actions. The two men were completely different individuals; however it was their faith in Jesus that brought them together so that they could work with mercy. As leaders, when we work with the holiness of hope, grace and joy and reflect the mercy of God, we too like Peter and Paul will be foundational and constructive in all that we do.  

On a parish note, last week our parish together with NSW Police, PCYC, Parramatta Eels, White Stone and       MaroniteCare worked in collaboration with each other to bring together our children, teens and youth to “Meet and Greet” their local police and football players who talked to them about some of the social issues that we are faced with in our community. The day was full of fun activities and informative talks and everyone got a chance to meet with the Parramatta Eel players. We thank the organisers of this event for their continued support to our community.  

This week, we will be celebrating the First Holy Communion of 57 of our young children who have been preparing themselves to receive Christ through the sacrament of the Eucharist. This will be our second group for the year and we extend our congratulations to them, their parents and their wonderful teachers who have been volunteering their time for the last six months to prepare them for this day.    

On a final note, our parish will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady between the 5th and 15th August this year. The theme for this year is “Mary, icon of the Father’s Mercy”. The program for Feast Week will be issued soon. If you would like to help us in any capacity, we will be holding a meeting on Monday 4th July at 7.00pm in the Seniors Room.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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Expect persecution but do not live in fear

Brothers and Sisters,

In last week’s Gospel reading Jesus called his Apostles and sent them out on a mission. This week Jesus goes   further! Not only does he expand the scope of their mission, but he tells them that they will be persecuted. This passage is actually quite daunting if you read it on face value. Persecution seems to be the order of the day, all because of their association with Jesus. If we reflect on this a little bit we will find that persecution was happening to them at the time, it happened even more after Jesus left them and it continues to happen to us today. If we reflect deeper into this passage and absorb what Jesus is saying we find that there is one explicit point that he makes: expect persecution, but do not live in fear.  

Jesus speaks of four different areas in which persecution will come from. The first being: persecution from Religion (10:17). This is quite evident when we listen to the news and see how Christians are persecuted in certain countries because of their faith. The second is persecution from Government (10:18).  In the past this has been in the form of Socialism and Communism and the like, however today this is taking another face; persecution by Government against our values, ideals and truths. This is especially witnessed in light of the changes to marriage which have been implemented or a being considered in certain places. The third is persecution from Family (10:21-22). This is probably the most difficult form of persecution. Sadly, some people are ostracized from their family because of Christ. Even within our own families, we find many disputes that relate to our values and beliefs. The fourth is persecution from Society (10:22). Here Jesus is referring to society as a whole and unfortunately sometimes even Christians. Our Christian beliefs and values are being questioned and persecuted by the media and by many groups.  

In the face of all this persecution, our Lord teaches us not to fear and proclaims that “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  Of course at times this is very difficult. So how do we live like “sheep in the midst of wolves?” Simply, we do this by living our Christian values. We need to be Christ-like in everything that we do and everything that we say. We should not repay hate with hate or anger with anger or persecution with persecution. We should live our faith in light of the Gospel and the teaching of our Church. It is through this example that they will know that we are Christians and it is this example that will save us. This does not mean that we stand idle and do nothing in the face of persecution. Remember, I said that we need to be Christ-like and Jesus certainly was not idle in the face of persecution. Our voice needs to be heard, yet we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Living what we preach and believe is the key!

Fr Tony Sarkis

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The Kingdom of God is at hand right now

Brothers and Sisters,

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples. His call has a two-fold purpose. The first is to form a community and the second is to give this community a mission. It is interesting how he calls each of the disciples by name. Of the Twelve Apostles seven have a name which comes from the time of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament.  Through these names we see a recapitulation of history. Further it reveals how each one of us is called by God by his or her name.  

Not only does Jesus call his disciples by name, but he is very clear in giving them instructions on what their mission will be. With explicit clarity he tells them what they need to do and who they are to see. We could really learn a thing or two from Jesus about our own communication skills. Are we clear in what we want to begin with, and then in stipulating this to others?  Jesus’ purpose was very clear! His mission was to bring about the Kingdom of God. This is what he calls us to do also; and thus his mission becomes our mission.

This mission is to bring about the Kingdom of God. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, teaches us that the Kingdom of God is at hand right now and available to everyone and he highlights the role of each one of us saying: “The kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society, and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God's activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of         salvation in all its fullness.” Therefore it is our mission to ensure that the marginalized people whom Christ himself identifies with have an equal share in the kingdom of God and realize God’s plan of salvation in the liberation from the suppressions and evils they currently face. This means that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustices that take place in our community, society or world. We can no longer sit back and watch the poor getting poorer; the marginalized being banished further, the abused being silenced and the oppressed being humiliated. We must be the instruments of Christ who truly bring about the Kingdom of God today and now.  

In our parish this week, 57 of our children (group 1 of 2) will be celebrating their first Holy Communion. Jesus is calling these children by name to be his new disciples. Let us all help them to grow in the love of Christ and truly bring about the Kingdom of God through our example. Congratulations to them and their families and a special thank you to the Holy Communion teacher volunteers who have worked so hard in preparing them for this special day.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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