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At the Service of the Kingdom

Dearest Brothers and Sisters,

As with all the Gospel passages of this Season, this week’s parable teaches us how to live responsibly so that we can secure our place at the banquet of our Lord in his Father’s Kingdom. Each one of us is bestowed with talents and there is no difference between those who receive more and those who receive less. We all receive according to our capacity; however, the important thing is that we place these talents at the service of the Kingdom. Unlike the third servant who was afraid and did nothing with his talent, we mustn’t be complacent and idle. This servant did nothing, gained nothing but ended up losing everything. The key message of this parable does not lie in the talents per say, but rather in the way that we responsibly live our relationship with God. The Kingdom is at risk and the one who does not want to run risks will lose the Kingdom.

Seven people who definitely used their talents in the service of the Kingdom were canonised by the Church last Sunday. Especially in difficult times, our Lord always seems to respond by sending us signs that reinforce the fact that sanctity is attainable and that his Father’s Kingdom is at hand. Frenchman Salomone Leclerq and Mexican José Sánchez del Río were martyrs. The former was decapitated during the French Revolution, and the latter was killed at age 14 in the midst of the Cristero War in Mexico in 1928.The Italian priests Lodovico Pavoni and Alfonso Maria Fusco were famous for their unconditional service to children, orphans, and the poor in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Elizabeth of the Trinity was a Carmelite nun and a French mystic who died at age 26 around the same period. José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, known as "the Gaucho priest,” was famous for traveling around rural Argentina riding a mule, helping the sick and the destitute. The most recent saint of the group is the Spaniard Manuel González García. This pious priest breathed new air into the devotion to the Eucharist in mid-twentieth century Spain. These consecrated men and women are symbols in the Church of how our vocation can be placed at the service of the Kingdom leading us to sanctification. At a time when our Church and consecrated life is being persecuted from all angles of society, the canonisation of these saints comes at a timely moment to remind the world of the importance of vocations to the Church and to society. This is a wonderful blessing for all of us.

On a parish note, last week, we commemorated anti-poverty week by holding a car wash and lots of fun activities in the bottom car park to raise funds for Heaven on Earth. Heaven on Earth have been doing an excellent job helping the homeless in Sydney, supporting newly arrived refugees along with various missions in Fiji, Lebanon and the Middle East. It was a wonderful experience for the Heaven on Earth volunteers who really encapsulated the family spirit of the day. These volunteers are great examples of how we can use our talents at the service of the Kingdom! Let us all support them in their very important work.

Father Tony Sarkis

Are You Awake?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last week in this corner I asked the very important question: “Are you ready?” In the same spirit, and in light of this week’s Gospel, I would like to ask you: “Are you awake?” The Gospel reminds us today that we are all going to meet our Heavenly King in one way or another. Many of us live our lives in fear of this meeting. We find ourselves terrified of death but what we are actually afraid of is this meeting. On the other hand, often we live our lives as if we are ready to meet him. We don’t pay much attention to this fact because we are so arrogant in the way we live, that our pride and arrogance overcomes us and takes over. Unfortunately, when the time comes closer and the clock strikes, the last moments of anticipation reveal the truth. How do we find ourselves at this moment? Are we willing and ready to meet him or are we lacking the signs of readiness to greet him – a greeting that shows our love for him. Do we try to borrow the signs of greeting from others in the same way that the bridesmaids did or do we possess this beautiful moment in which we greet the bridegroom and enter with him into the wedding? Are we always ready for this moment in our lives or are we carrying the burdens of these times and its problems?

Jesus tells us about the importance of this meeting; “keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” He also tells us that “he who waits to the end is saved.” Yes my brothers and sisters, let us prepare ourselves and be ready for this beautiful moment. Not because we are afraid or because we are over-confident, but because we are anxious to meet him. We have the opportunity to be the guest of honour at a great wedding banquet, only if we stay awake and are ready to join the community of guests with our lamps shining from our actions. This is our journey with Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom who comes to us carrying with him the joy of the heavenly banquet of his Father’s Kingdom.

I must say that I am very pleased to be back in Australia after a few weeks away with my family in Lebanon. I see that our parish is as lively as ever! This past week our parish hosted the clergy meeting for two days, where Our Bishop and clergy from all over Australia met to discuss important pastoral and liturgical issues. Our Teens celebrated Mass together on Wednesday with Father Raphael and attended an important talk on Mental Health led by Rony Kayrouz. Our Seniors celebrated Mass on Thursday with Father Bernard (we welcome him back also) and the Seniors Committee who had prepared lunch and activities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Father Youwakim and all the priests at Our Lady of Lebanon for the great work that they do and continue to do, especially during my absence. I would also like to thank all the committees and volunteers for their wonderful work. Your love and dedication to your parish is truly are sign that you are awake and ready!

Father Tony Sarkis

Are You Ready?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In order to fully understand this parable that our Lord equips us with this week, we need to look back to the three verses that come before it. In Matthew 24:42, our Lord tells his disciples to “stay awake” because you do not know the day when your master is coming. Before he proceeds with the parable of the faithful and wise slave, he goes on to tell them “to stand ready because the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” As with all the readings during this Glorious Season of the Cross, today’s Gospel also points to the eschatological dimension of our faith, the end of the world and the second coming of the Lord.

Today, many people think that the end of the world is close and at hand. They live their lives concerned about the end of the world. Every time something tragic takes place, such as wars, famines, terrorist attacks, they say “this is the end of the world”. Every time something takes place in society which is contrary to their ideals and beliefs, they say “the end of the world has come.” The truth of the matter is that regardless of what is taking place in the world, nobody knows when the end will come except for the Father. In fact, Saint Mark in his Gospel tells us “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father!” (Mk 13, 32). The question at hand shouldn’t be when or how. The question should be “are you ready?” for the when and for the how. The example of the master and the slave is very important in this context. Each one of us has a responsibility to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us. How we behave and the choices that we make in life truly matter and reflect on our character and level of growth. Regardless of whether our “Master” is present or not, we should act with responsibility and be trustworthy “servants”.

Further to this, our work in the Church should not be dependent on the person of the priest. For example, if I get on well with a particular priest, this doesn’t mean that when that priest is away I stop working and carrying out my duties in the service of the Church. Here, the question arises, am I serving the Church, the body of Christ or the person of the priest? I need to be faithful and responsible to the Church at all times, in the presence and in the absence of the priest!

Last Monday, many of our parishioners together with Father Youwakim Noujaim gave up their public holiday to carry out some crucial work around the Cathedral. Nearly 300m2 of rock flooring was demolished. Thank you to everyone who took part in this, whether it was by carrying out the work or providing nourishment; your efforts are truly appreciated! Also, congratulations to our Youth committee (MYO) who organised a very successful Grand Ball last Friday night. I truly commend you all on your planning and organisation. The funds raised from this event will go towards the grotto project. I will be back next week and am looking forward to seeing you all upon my arrival.

Blessings from Lebanon, Father Tony Sarkis

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