Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this second Sunday after the Feast of the Exaltation of Glorious Cross we are in a certain way provoked with another rather challenging Gospel passage. Today’s Gospel depicts the sad state of the world that we live in and we often wonder why there is so much despair and misery. It speaks of wars, famine, earthquakes, torture, hatred and death, false prophets and betrayal, lawlessness and loss of love. It is a rather pessimistic picture! If we look around us, not much has changed. We are still challenged with the same issues, however in a different context. The biggest challenge to us as Christians today is our identity. Society is using our God created identity to tell us that we no longer need to worry about this if we “feel” that our identity is something different. The whole debate about gender theory which we are being threatened with is what society is using to eliminate God. When we start playing with the gifts that our creator has given us, we start playing the role of God. Unfortunately, these “false prophets” are leading “many astray”.
So it would seem that Jesus has every right to declare that not one stone will be left upon another in the Temple? Is this because he wishes to harm? Or it is in his nature to destroy? Or is it because he has another purpose, to build a live Temple in which He lives and frees humanity; returning it to its roots and its freewill, its happiness and its victory over its evil ways, so that it can begin anew in a journey that activates the joy and care of God? The Temple with Jesus is no longer made of stone, rather it is a heart that pumps love, peace and self-giving.
For this reason we see Jesus advising us to go beyond our limited humanity and all the passions and barriers that it entails. Humanity should strive to express its abilities and talents for the good work that reflects the presence of God, His favour and richness. Because the Lord requires a lively Temple rather than a stone one, full of security and tranquillity, victory and fertility, vigil and care, to actuate the fruits of His holiness, its purity and liveliness. No longer is the stone Temple the ultimate goal for God to dwell with us. It is no longer the place that gathers and unites humanity. However, Jesus has transformed it to a lively place that he will live in and in it he will be the eternally living sacrifice that is offered for the redemption of humanity and its return to the port of salvation, so that it can truly be the place in which God dwells and through it reflect His abilities, His greatness and His richness. Let us be vigilant in combating all the attempts to eliminate God from our lives.
Blessings from Lebanon, Father Tony Sarkis
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In this first Sunday after the Feast of the Exaltation of Glorious Cross we are confronted with a rather challenging Gospel passage. It contradicts everything that society teaches, it contradicts everything that we are taught at university or work about leadership, but yet again it gives us a charter on how we should live our Christian lives. Sometimes when we read what Jesus says we question ourselves: “does this man really know what he is talking about?” I mean who in this day and age would instruct us to “be servants” or “slaves”? Everyone encourages us to be strong leaders. We are challenged to get to the top at whatever cost, be it through status, fame, money, power and unfortunately oppression of others. But Jesus came to teach us a new way of getting to the top. He taught us that we must serve everyone with love. He taught us that we must humble ourselves not to reach the top of the organisation that we are working for but to reach the ultimate “top” which is the heavenly kingdom.
“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant”, is a difficult constitution to follow, but these are the words of a true leader. If we take a moment to think about these words, we can see how right Jesus was. Let’s face it, who would you prefer to be your leader, someone who is arrogant, pompous or selfish; someone who is proud and is only concerned about rank or status! Or would you prefer someone who is humble, someone who is kind, generous, loving; someone
who respects your opinion, your freedom and your dignity! I know that I would choose the later; I would choose someone who is like Jesus, the true leader. Let us always look to our Lord as our ultimate example and truly live and proclaim his words in everything that we do and everything that we say.
Well, I can truly say that I am missing everyone at the parish. Although my time here in Lebanon has given me the opportunity to spend some time with my family and especially my baby nephew; and also to rest, seeing all the activity in the parish via social media really stirs in my emotions of love and attachment to Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral. I watched with great joy the procession that took place on Tuesday night. It is wonderful that we continue to live out our Maronite traditions in Australia. Thank you to Father Youwakim and Fr Pierre for organising and leading the procession with our Bishop. Also, this week the courses on the Maronite Church and traditions have begun through our English Faith Formation Committee and I encourage you all to take part in them so that you can discover and understand the treasures of our Maronite Church.
Blessings from Lebanon,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week we begin a new a new Season in our Liturgical journey through the year. This season, which is the final season of the Liturgical year, is the Season of the Exaltation of the Glorious Cross. It begins on 14 September and lasts for seven weeks ending the liturgical calendar in our Maronite Church. This feast is one of the greatest feasts of the Eastern Churches. It is frequently mentioned in the ecclesiastical writing and always has as its object the triumph of Christ, his resurrection, and the veneration of the holy cross, the sign of his victory over death. The feast of the Exaltation of the Glorious Cross was first instituted in order to commemorate the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem on September 13, 335.
The second historical event which is the source of our present feast was the return of the holy cross to Jerusalem under Emperor Heraclius. The wood of the cross had been preserved in the church of the Resurrection until May 4, 614 when the Persians captured Jerusalem, burned the church of the resurrection and carried off the cross. After the victory of the Emperor Heraclius over the Persians, the cross was returned to Jerusalem on September 14 628. It is said that the Emperor, dressed in his royal vestments, carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem. He was stopped by the Patriarch who demanded that he remove his vestments in order to become more like the scorned Christ. The Emperor agreed and walked through the streets barefooted. A crowd of the faithful accompanied him and prostrated before the holy cross.
This season is directed towards the second coming of our Lord. The Gospel readings and prayers are focused on the eschatological aspect of our faith. I pray that you will be able to join the priests and parishioners on Tuesday night, the eve of the feast, for Mass and then a procession with the cross on the church grounds.
Last Wednesday our parish thanked all the volunteers that helped us with Feast Week. Father Raphael offered the 7pm Mass for the volunteers and their families and everyone was invited to dinner in the recreation room. Although I could not be with you due to my presence in Lebanon with my family, I would like to thank each and everyone one of you for all that you did during feast week and all that you continually do.
It is with a joy filled heart that I welcome you to the 15th Sunday of Pentecost after having celebrated the feast of the Assumption of our blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lebanon, who is truly an icon of the Father’s Mercy. Mary teaches us how to be merciful to one another. This stems from her own faith and trust in God the Father, who chose her from amoung all to carry in her womb Mercy itself.
In this parish, Mary also carries us, her children, in her womb. She caresses us, embraces us, guides us and prays with us and for us. When we are down, she holds us in her arms and sings us a lullaby of love so that we can rest and find peace in her lap. We draw beauty from her beauty, strength from her strength, patience from her patience and love from her love. She unites us under her mantle so that we can work together for the Glory of God and the good of his people.
My beloved family and friends, we have been preparing for the Feast of the Assumption since April. Over these past few months I have watched how you have all worked together in the spirit that is only befitting of servants who are honouring their eternal Queen. In a spirit that truly activates the love and mercy of the Father as exemplified by Mary. I saw the passion and zeal in your service. I felt the great pride that you have in working together for your parish. I heard the respect in which you dealt with each other. You all, so generously give of your time, talents and finances. You spare no expense in honouring your Mother. Because not only does she deserve it, but because simply ibyilbaqla…..
To our Gold Sponsors, Rockform, Dyldam and Bank of Sydney….. Thank you.
To our Silver Sponsors, Navara Venues, Western Union and Dial before you dig….Thank you.
To our Bronze Sponsors, North Rock Auto Care, Nutriscript and Montessori Academy….Thank you.
To all those who have helped preparing for the Feast of the Assumption in whichever way….Thank you.
To our 22 committees who work tirelessly in this parish not only during feast week but during every week of the year….Thank you.
To the staff of Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral who work behind the scenes….Thank you.
To my brother priests who serve this parish with all their heart….Thank you.
To our beloved Bishop who has put his unwavering trust and confidence in us, his children……We thank you with all our heart.
Thank you to every one of you for all that you do. You are the pride of your Mother, you are the pride of your Church. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asks us to “Be Merciful, like the Father” and I say to you, be icons of the Father’s Mercy, just like your Mother.