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.
On this blessed 5th Sunday of Pentecost, our Maronite Church celebrates the Feast of St Peter and St Paul who are also known as the Pillars of the Church or of Christianity. Two people, from two different walks of life, each with their own weakness or sin, each with a unique experience of Christ and a conversion story.
Peter, an Apostle from the 12, experienced the Lord in his public ministry, in His passion, death and Resurrection. Peter, a weak man, denies the Lord three times. This same Peter, in today’s Gospel proclaims that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” It is this same Peter to whom Christ gives greatest responsibility: the building of His Church and the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Paul, a Roman citizen and a Jewish Pharisee, experienced the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul, a great attacker of the faith and a persecutor of the early Christians, becomes a great defender of the faith and a protector of the early Church. It is this same Paul, whose writings and letters form part of the Church teachings and are read during liturgies.
But why are these two Saints celebrated together? What do they teach you and I? Well, firstly, both of them seem so different and indeed they are. Peter and Paul are like the North and South pole of a magnet. But there is wisdom in the saying that opposites attract. This force that brings them both together is known as Christ.
Peter and Paul, undoubtedly had differing opinions, especially in the establishment of the early Church. One of the greatest debates recorded in Scripture is that of the membership into the community of Christ: did one have to be circumcised in order to be a Christian?
In our own lives, opposition is healthy, a difference in opinion opens doors for different ways of doing things, and it opens doors for dialogue. It opens doors for increased learning and for progress. However, we must be respectful and accept differences as part of God’s unique plan. Taking from the example of Peter and Paul, when there were disputes, they came together in a spirit of love and understanding. They called a meeting and with respect for One who is greater than they were, they discussed and from their discussion, a solution or an answer was born.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all teachers and students a safe, enjoyable and well-deserved holiday. Make sure that you take this time to relax and re-energise, not only physically but also spiritually. Remember that just because you are on holidays, it does not mean you are on holidays from Mass.
Also a big thank you to our Seniors Committee who celebrate a regular Mass followed by lunch and activities for our beloved seniors. May God reward you abundantly.
Last but not least, a special thank you to our Heaven on Earth committee and volunteers. The work that you do in silence is seen by our heavenly Father and I am sure is also appreciated by those that you serve. In the cold of the winter, you bring physical warmth to the homeless and needy and also an emotional warmth in the love and care that you show towards them.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we continue our journey through the Season of Pentecost in the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we arrive at a very important station in which the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is truly revealed as Jesus rejoices in the Spirit. This week, after the 72 disciples come back from their mission and tell Jesus about their experiences, Jesus is filled with joy as he listens to how the Holy Spirit has truly worked through them and their experiences. This joy allows Jesus to burst into a prayer of thanksgiving to his Father for revealing this great joy of the Kingdom to them. The Kingdom of God, that is the love of the Father, was revealed to them in the little things that they did to help the people that they visited.
As we live our lives today, often we try to find this great joy in major events, milestones or achievements that take place in our lives. We are always trying to find something that will have a big effect, a big bang if you like. However, have you ever stopped to think that sometimes it is in the very small things that we do that this joy can be found. It could be in a smile or a simple “hello” or even an acknowledgement of something small that someone has done. It could even be in our mannerisms or reactions, in the way that we welcome and greetpeople. Saint Mother Teresa says to us: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The 72 disciples didn’t have anything other than their experience of love through Christ. Yet they could experience this joy and effectively change the course of the world. Today, we have so much more than them, yet we are blinded by our greed for more. Let us start finding joy in the little things, because it is in them that the great love of God can truly be found.
On Wednesday and after two and a half years of service in this blessed parish, we said good-bye to Father Youhanna Khalife. Father Youhanna was appointed by the Holy See last Thursday as the Director General of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is an important role which will see Father Director travelling back to Lebanon to assume his new appointment. We have been very privileged to work with Father Youhanna. His wise counsel, the monastic spirit which he brought with him and lived has had a very positive effect on us as priests and on the parish. Further, his ability make decisions with prudence and tact has been exemplary, the signs of a good leader.
On behalf of all the clergy, staff, committees and parishioners, I take this opportunity to congratulate Father Youhanna on his new and very important appointment. I thank him for everything that he has achieved, especially for his work in Ryde which will be continuing and his work here in the parish with the Sodality and Fersen. May the prayers of Blessed Virgin and Saint John Paul II be with him.