Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
A wedding celebration to begin our Lenten journey? Yes, my brothers and sisters, the Maronite
Season of Great Lent begins with a wedding feast. But it is more than just a feast where the wine runs out and the water is miraculously turned into the best wine. The Wedding Feast of Cana is a foreshadowing of the greatest banquet that awaits those who trust in the
Lord – the Resurrection.
Throughout the Sundays of Great Lent, we stop each week at a different healing story. Each Sunday is a
reminder of what sin does to the individual. Sin causes isolation from society, it causes the loss of life eternal, it separates us from God, it disables us, and it distorts our vision. The Gospels each Sunday throughout Lent, serve as a reminder to each baptised individual to repent and return to the Lord, trusting in His bountiful and unending mercy and love: This is the purpose of Great Lent. It is only through our repentance and our
denouncement of sin that we can share in the Eternal Wedding Feast of the Resurrection.
Just as we prepare ourselves, from hair and makeup to clothing and transport to attend a wedding or any other function, so too must we prepare ourselves, mentally and spiritually, for the Resurrection. Lent is the time for fasting and abstinence. Lent is a time of prayer and reflection. Lent is the time where we reflect upon our sinful ways and turn to the Lord for forgiveness and spiritual growth. It is the time of dying to our old habits only to be reborn anew and afresh at the Resurrection.
With the Season of Great Lent beginning with the distribution of ashes on our foreheads, it is important to plan our time so that we can attend Mass and to take proper time for prayer, asking the merciful Lord for assistance and guidance during this Season. Receiving the ashes should be more than a carefree attitude where we attend because it’s a must or because the Church tells us to do so. It should be about a deep desire within us to want to be with the Lord; a deep desire to want to change and become the best person God intends us to be. By doing so, we can then arrive with the Lord at the Port of Salvation where He will call us and tell us “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).
On a different note, there has been some exciting news within our Eparchy and especially for our Parish, with the announcement of Deacon Danny Nouh being ordained to the Priesthood of Christ on March 17th, 2018 at 3:00pm by the Imposition of Hands by
His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay. We congratulate Danny and the Parish on such amazing news.
Furthermore, last week the Stewardship Committee resumed its meetings and welcomed on board 5 new members. We thank them for accepting the invitation to join the existing members and I sincerely thank the former members for their dedication and commitment during their time of service.
The Parish Pastoral Council also resumed this week after the Christmas break with Sub deacon Charbel Dib being appointed as the new Coordinator of the Council. The Parish Pastoral Council has already begun planning and preparations for the Season of Great Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
Our Parish First Holy Communion students began preparations to receive the Body of Christ for the first time with their first lesson on Wednesday 7th February. I thank the volunteer teachers who have dedicated their time to teach the students and prepare them for this wonderful Sacrament.
Filled with the new wine of Christ, our Parish committees and Councils are full swing into their activities and programs and I ask the good Lord to fill you with zeal and strength for the year ahead.
Father Tony Sarkis
Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
Today we arrive at the third and final commemoration before we enter the
Season of Great Lent, the commemoration of the Faithful Departed. In parable portrayed in today’s Gospel, we can see through the eyes of Lazarus and the rich man the closeness of heaven and hell. The rich man is able to see Lazarus rom hell. The rich man is tortured by what he didn’t do, and he is still trying to
understand what others can do for him rather than what he can do for others. This was his problem to begin with. For this reason, a “great chasm” or gulf was created between the two men. This great chasm is also found between the church of heaven and the church on earth. However, it is through our prayers and the abundant mercy of God that a bridge is created to link the two. This bridge
destroys the chasm and unites the two so that they are one.
A wealthy person can be a saint or sinner in the same way that a poor person can be a grave sinner or saint. What we can be sure of is that the remedy from sin is God’s mercy and grace which comes to us through His Son, Jesus. The knowledge of oneself, together with a good relationship with God, an authentic balanced
understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church provides a path of faith and reason to restore health to the mind, body, and soul. I could be the richest person in the world, but if I don’t have the above, then I have nothing and vice versa.
Praying for our faithful departed takes much prominence in the Maronite Mass and in the para-liturgies, such the Rite of the Prayer of Incense. It is so important that we pray for our faithful departed and the Maronite Church allocates one whole week to do so. Through the liturgy and especially the Divine Liturgy, the Church in heaven and the Church on earth unite together to pray for the resting souls. During this week, all Masses will be followed by the Prayer of Incense and we will be celebrating a Mass at Rookwood Cemetery on Tuesday 6
February at 12.00pm for all the departed who have been buried there. Let us continue to pray for our departed with faith, hope and love so that their souls through the mercy of God may rest in peace.
As you are aware, our clergy together with our Bishop attended our annual retreat last week. The retreat was a time to rejuvenate ourselves both spiritually and mentally. The theme that we worked on was “Service and
Witness in the life of a Priest.” We discussed many ways in which we can revitalise the way that we work
including our relationship with our faithful parishioners. We hope to activate the fruits of this retreat in the year ahead of us.
Finally, for the relics of Saint Maroun have arrived in Australia and we will be celebrating the Feast of Saint Maroun in their presence at Saint Maroun’s Cathedral on 9 February at 7pm in Redfern. This will truly be a
historical event in which we encourage you all to take part in. May the prayers of Saint Maroun be with you all.
Father Tony Sarkis
In our Maronite Church this week, we begin the three weeks of Commemorations as we prepare ourselves for the most solemn part of the year, Lent. We start this period with the Commemoration of the Priests. The priest is the faithful and prudent manager whom our Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted to be in charge of His flock to give them their allowance of spiritual food at the proper time. The priest is the one chosen by God and the judgement of the priest will be much greater than anyone else, because he is the one to whom much has been entrusted, and even more will be demanded.
When I think of the priesthood, I think of the candle and specifically, the service of the candle. Like a candle whose flame burns brightly and melts the wax to provide light, the priest too, when filled with the grace of God should shine brightly and radiate the light of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world. Through his service, the priest dies to this world and melts like a candle to bring the light of Christ to the people of God. Prayer is the fuel for this ser-vice! For this reason, we need to pray for priests so that they can say no to the temptations of this world and tru-ly represent Christ who has entrusted them to be the spiritual leaders of his flock.
If we want healthy spiritual leadership in our parish and in our church, then we must pray for it. By praying for priests, we build up their spiritual armour and aid their mission so that they are transformed into Christ, the eternal High Priest. We must never forget that a priest is also a human being. This means that he has weaknesses and he is far from being perfect, however he is uniquely, ontologically configured to Christ and for this reason he must be the prudent and faithful servant. When my time is completed in this world and I will face the Lord, the first question He will ask me, Tony Sarkis, have you been faithful to the parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon parish, have you led them with prudence and wisdom? If my answer is “no”, then my fate will be that of the
unfaithful slave. Please pray for me and all priests so that our service can truly be like the service of the candle which melts away to provide the light of Christ to the world. We especially remember the deceased priests who have served this parish, Monsignor Michel Boumelhem, Fr Sarkis Charbel , Fr Elias Ayoub and Fr Antoun Bou Antoun.
This week our Fersen and their leaders went on their annual camp. Over forty Fersen children and their 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, as did the Teens last week. A big thank you to Eliana Gerges and all the leaders who have been preparing for months, working very hard to make the camp a fun as well as a deeply spiritual experience for the children. Congratulations also to the Teens who attended last weeks camp. The reports that I have received were excellent and the behaviour of the Teens was exceptional. These reports make me very proud. Thank you so much to our youth leaders who are truly faithful and prudent managers within their ministries.
نبدأ في كنيستنا المارونية هذا الأسبوع سلسلة أسابيع التذكا ا رت الثلاثة فيما نحضّر أنفسنا لأكثر أج ا زء السنة مهابةً؛ الصوم الكبير. نبدأ هذه الفترة بتذكار الكهنة. الكاهن هو الوكيل الأمين الحكيم الذي ائتمن ربنا يسوع المسيح على قطيعه ليعطي كل فرد حصته من الطعام الروحي في الوقت المناسب. الكاهن هو الرجل المختار من الله، دينونته أكبر بكثير من دينونة أي شخص آخر، لأنه هو المؤتَمَن على الكثير، وسيُطلب منه حتى أكثر. عندما أفكر بالكهنوت، أتصوّر الشمعة، خصوصاً الخدمة التي تؤديها. على مثال الشمعة التي تحترق شعلتها لتشعّ، وتذوب لتمنح النور، هكذا الكاهن أيضاً، عندما يكون ممتلئاً من نعمة الله، عليه أن يشع بنور ربنا يسوع المسيح في هذا العالم بشكل ساطع. عبر خدمته، يموت الكاهن عن العالم ويذوب كالشمعة ليحمل نور المسيح إلى شعب الله. الصلاة هي وقود هذه الخدمة! لذلك نحتاج إلى أن نصلي من أجل الكهنة لكي يستطيعوا أن يقولوا "لا" لتجا رب هذا
العالم، ويمثّلوا حقاً المسيح الذي ائتمنهم على أن يكونوا القادة الروحيين لقطيعه.
إذا أردنا قيادة روحية سليمة في رعيتنا وكنيستنا، علينا إذاً أن نصلي للحصول عليها. بالصلاة من أجل الكهنة، نبني درعهم الروحي ونساعدهم في رسالتهم ليصبحوا المسيح، الكاهن السرمدي الأعظم. لا يجب أن ننسى أبداً أن الكاهن إنسانٌ أيضاً. هذا يعني أن لديه نقاط ضعف وأنه غير كامل، مهما كان مميّ ا زً ومطابقاً في جوهره الوجودي للمسيح. لذلك عليه أن يكون الوكيل الحكيم الأمين. عندما ينتهي وقتي في هذا العالم وأ واجه الرب، السؤال الأول الذي سيطرحه عليّ هو: يا طوني سركيس، هل كنت أميناً على أف ا رد الرعية في رعية سيدة لبنان ومارست قيادتك لهم بتبصّر وحكمة؟
إذا كان جوابي "كلا"، فإن مصيري سيكون مثل الخادم الذي لم يكن أميناً على خدمته. أرجو أن تصلوا من أجلي ومن أجل جميع الكهنة لكي تكون خدمتنا حقاً مثل خدمة الشمعة التي تذوب لتعطي العالم نور المسيح. نذكر خصوصاً الكهنة المنتقلين من بيننا والذين خدموا هذه الرعية، المونسنيور ميشال بو ملحم، الأب سركيس شربل، الخوري الياس أيوب والخوري أنطون بو أنطون.
هذا الأسبوع شارك فرساننا وقادتهم بمخيمهم السنوي. أكثر من أربعين طفلاً ومسؤولاً تأملوا مع مرشدهم الروحي الشماس داني نوح بسنة الشهادة والشهداء في الكنيسة المارونية وعاشوا شعار الشجاعة، كما فعل الم ا رهقون )الطلائع( الأسبوع الماضي. شُكر كبير ل إيليانا جرجس وجميع المسؤلون الذين حضّروا لشهور وعملوا بكدّ ليجعلوا المخيم خبرة ممتعة مفعمة بروحانية عميقة للأطفال. تهانينا أيضاً للم ا رهقين الذين شاركوا في مخيم الأسبوع الماضي. التقارير التي تلقيتها كانت ممتازة وسلوك الم ا رهقين كان ا رئعاً. هذه التقارير تجعلني فخو ا رً جداً بكم. أتقدم بشكري الجزيل لمسؤولي الشبيبة الذين هم حقاً وكلاء أمناء وحكماء في رسالتهم.