Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we enter the sixth and second last week of the Season of the Glorious Resurrection, we again encounter the Resurrected Christ who unexpectedly appears to the apostles. This week we take a break from the Johannine Gospels and reflect on the Gospel of Saint Luke where we find a certain sequence to this passage. The master of story-telling, Luke, unfolds the apparition like a three-act play: Jesus appears suddenly; the disciples respond with fear; and Jesus calms their fears. After seeing his hands and feet, there was joy, but still disbelief and wonder. Saint Luke’s description of the disciple’s reaction is excellent:
‘in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.’ Isn’t it so true how faith slowly dispels doubt? Isn’t it true how joy testifies to the world-changing reality, however some questions always remain unanswered and we are kept wondering? If even in their joy and after experiencing the living Jesus, the apostles found it hard to comprehend his Resurrection, how can we do this after 2000 years?
Being a witness to Jesus is not easy, however it is not impossible! To be a witness we need strength in faith and perseverance. Our mission is to be a witness of the love of God revealed in Jesus. It this love that drives us to believe and confirms us in our faith. We need to ask ourselves this question: Am I a witness of this love?
We especially need to ask ourselves this question in light of the journey that we are on during this Jubilee Year of Martyrdom and Martyrs in the Maronite Church. There are so many examples of people who were witnesses till death. Their witness meant that they sacrificed their lives and became the ultimate witnesses of God’s love.
God continues to send us examples of his love through the Saints and Saint Rita was no exception. As a daughter, wife, mother and religious sister, Saint Rita witnessed to the love of God revealed in Jesus at every moment of her life. As we conclude the Novena in her honour and celebrate her feast, let us always turn to her example and ask for her intercession in our time of need. It is through her example that God shows us that nothing is impossible.
Preparations are well underway for the Gala Dinner which will be held next Friday. The committee has been working very hard to make the final arrangements. We are all looking forward to a memorable night in which we can raise the much-needed funds to make the necessary renovations to the statute, shelter and grotto. Last week, the procession in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima was truly a beautiful occasion in which our Maronite Church together with the Latin Church celebrated as one. Our thanks to the clergy and organizing team from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta and especially to Subdeacon Charbel Dib for representing OLOL on the team.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We continue this week from where we left off in the Gospel of John. After they had breakfast, Jesus sat with Peter and asked him three times if he loved him. This is one of the last encounters that Jesus has with Peter and a very important one at that. Peter affirmatively responds three times with a yes to Jesus and each time Jesus entrusts him with the mission of taking care of his flock. You will notice that Jesus doesn’t ask Peter if he will be obedient, bow down to him or if he will follow his commands. He doesn’t ask him if he is an expert in philosophy or a scholar in Scripture or specialises in a particular branch of theology. Jesus simply asks him “Do you love me?” All Jesus asks for is love and it is this love that is central to our mission as followers of Christ.
As we carry out the mission of Christ, this love will most of the time take us to places that we do not want to go. This is what Jesus explains to Peter and to us today. Many times we are taken to the gates of hell by people that we love and trust. They even open up the gates for us and lead us to anger, hatred, resentment, vengeful thoughts. They lead us to sin! Unfortunately, they lead us to sin in his name. However, our service to these people in love will prevail and this is what will lead and guide us. You see, this is all that matters to Jesus, love. At the end of the day, it will not matter how many degrees I have or how many books I have written. The only thing that will matter is how much I loved!
Our Lady is an icon of this love. She is a wonderful example of compassion and affection. Our Lady always takes us to the place that our heart desires, the place in which we yearn for, she always takes us to her son Jesus. As we celebrate the one hundred year anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta; between May 13 and October 13, 1917; let us always remember to call on her intercession to lead us to her son, Jesus.
Like Our Lady, our mother’s also lead us to places that we want to go, peaceful and secure places where we feel the warmth of their tenderness and love. Our parish celebrated Mother’s Day on Tuesday with a beautiful Mass and luncheon. Our thanks go to Father Youwakim Noujaim, Subdeacon Danny Nouh and the ladies from our committees who worked together to make the day a beautiful day in which we honour the mothers of our parish. On behalf of all the clergy I would like to wish all our Mother’s a Blessed Mother’s Day. Thank you for all the sacrifices that you make for us. You are the love that shines like a beacon in our lives.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our Lord appears for the third time after his Resurrection in this week’s Gospel passage. The apostles had gone back to their normal jobs after the recent events that had taken place. They were angry, confused and hopeless and to make matters worse, even their job as fishermen was not giving them any satisfaction because they were unable to catch any fish. Jesus, having seen that they had not caught a thing, suggested to throw the net on the other side of the boat. At this stage, he was still unknown to them. Having nothing to lose, they did just as he suggested. Shocked by such a huge large catch, they put the pieces of the puzzle together and recognized the person on the shore to be Jesus. Peter in his usual sporadic fashion, instantaneously dived into the water and swam while the others returned to shore and all responded to Jesus’ request to eat together.
This scene connected the post-resurrected Jesus with the one they had lived with for the last three years. He ate fish. He knew them in and out. Jesus not only arose but was meeting with them as before. But more than proof of a physical resurrection, we see Jesus’ commitment to communion with them and his desire to continue to work with them. The Apostles can do nothing of worth on their own - not even catch a fish, and with gentleness the Lord reminds them that with him, they can do the impossible. This is our story too! We tend to lock ourselves up in our own little world, just like the Apostles did, and only later do we come to realize that there is someone missing - the Lord. The Lord will not allow any barriers to get in his way. He will reveal himself, one way or another, and not allow any of his sheep to wander too far off. Therefore, when we too are angry, confused and have lost hope, we must also remember that we can do nothing of worth without Jesus. He is our hope and our strength and it is only through him and with him that we too can do the impossible.
The month of May home visits continue this week with Our Lady. It has been beautiful to see families gathering together in prayer. We need to encourage this not only during this month, but every day of our lives. This coming week we will be honouring our mothers on Tuesday 9 May beginning at 10.30am with a Mass and then a luncheon in the Cathedral Hall. Please don’t miss out on buying a ticket for your mother. On Friday 12 May, the Novena to Saint Rita begins after the 6pm Mass. We will be praying for the persecuted Christians in Egypt this year through the intercession of Saint Rita. On Saturday 13 May at 9am, our brothers and sisters from the Latin Rite will be joining us to celebrate 100 years of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. We will start here at the Cathedral with morning prayers, then process with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, where we will celebrate Mass and have lunch together. I look forward to seeing you all at these events.