Brothers and Sisters,
After months of preparation and anticipation, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has dawned upon us bringing with it the graces of community and holiness. Our journey began last Friday with our Opening Mass and a beautiful procession in the streets of Harris Park in honour of Our Lady. On Saturday night we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and the sense of community was transfigured in our parish through the Souk Festival night. Our youth on Sunday night celebrated the feast in prayer and celebration and on Monday night we paid tribute to the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception on their 40th Anniversary through a beautiful Mass which was celebrated by His Excellency Antoine-Charbel followed by dinner in the Cathedral Hall. On Tuesday night we were absolutely enthralled by the music and reflections of the children of our parish who truly captivated us with the “My Church” concert. On Wednesday night, Bishop Bosco Puthur inspired us with his talk on the devotion to Our Lady in the Syro-Malabar tradition. Thursday we worshiped and adored Our Lord in the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist as we prepared for his Mother’s Feast. Throughout Feast Week we have been praying the Rosary and Novena of Our Lady of Lebanon for all your intentions. And ofcourse we continue our festivities with the Parish BBQ and the pinnacle of our celebrations through the Solemn Divine Liturgy on the day of the Feast.
From generation to generation Feast week continues to grow in our parish bringing together the different generations in both prayer and community. The parish has truly been buzzing with activity with all the priests, subdeacon, sisters, over 22 committees and groups and all our volunteers working together in a spirit of love and unity for over three months to ensure its success. We have prayed together, worked together, sung together, clapped and laughed together and at times we have cried together. Through all of this, we have tried to be icons of the Father’s Mercy, in the same way that Mary teaches us. This is what the Feast of the Assumption is all about! Mary’s example is the key that will open the door of mercy, the door that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary who is the Mother of mercy, the Mother of prayer and the Mother of hope is the radiant icon that is sculpted in love and humility. Mary praises and magnifies the Merciful Father through her work and example in the history of salvation. Through our work as a community, we also praise and magnify the Lord through her example. On behalf of my brother priests and subdeacon and all our committees, I would like to thank you all for celebrating this glorious feast with us. Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers, all the hard working men and women who have worked tirelessly cooking, cleaning, organising and preparing. In the words of Mary, his mercy is for YOU, each one of YOU, who fear him from generation to generation.
“Do not be afraid”, a reassuring phrase constantly repeated by Christ during His public ministry. Think about those words carefully. What does it mean to not be afraid? What does it mean to trust completely in God, giving to Him all that weighs us down?
On this blessed Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Three Massabki brothers. These three brothers – Francis, Abdel Mohti and Raphael – are a great example of what it means to ‘not be afraid’. The lives that they led and their witness to their faith in Christ is in line with this Sunday’s Gospel.
Christ uses the sparrows to show the worth of humans. Jesus tells us that the sparrow, a tiny bird, is not forgotten by God, and that we are far more valuable than the sparrow and for this reason we should not be afraid. This thought alone should give us immediate comfort but for some it doesn’t. Why not? The answer is simple; we do not have enough trust in God or our faith is lacking in conviction and in a world that is trying hard to destroy our Christian faith, we are more than ever in need of a well-formed and well-grounded trust and belief in the promises of the Lord.
As trustees of this faith and guardians of the truth, we are called to defend our faith when it needs to be defended. This defence does not necessarily need to be one of revenge, which is based on anger, and paying back for what one has done against another. Rather, it should be based on action, especially in the acts of love and forgiveness. There is the famous saying that ‘actions speak louder than words’ and this is a very true statement. Take a very good look at a Crucifix. Gaze upon Jesus who hangs there. Is not His action of selfless love worth more than that of revenge and hateful anger? Could He, should He have chosen, not destroyed the guards who crucified Him? But instead He remained silent because He entrusted everything to the Father.
These three Massabki brothers also lived a life of defending their faith, even unto death. They knew that protecting their faith and defending it meant silence, perseverance and trust in the One who tells us “do not be afraid”. Their belief was that strong and certain that they defended their faith even unto death, thus making them martyrs.
This is our Maronite Church, from its birth, it is a history of defending our faith in Christ with our blood. God, as Christ reassures, does not forget this blood, and their reward awaits them in heaven.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Stewardship committee who met this week. May God reward you with His blessings for all your hard work and efforts.
I would also like to thank the many volunteers who are supporting and will be supporting Feast Week this year. Let us continue to grow in our motivation and support to make this Feast Week a great and memorable one. May you all have a blessed and beautiful week ahead.
Brothers and Sisters,
This week we celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two pillars of the Church. It is a celebration of Christian leadership. These two men laid down the foundation for the Christian community, establishing the Church and encouraging its growth. As we heard last week, persecution was the order of the day and their task of spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ was not a simple one. Despite these trials and persecutions, these two men built the Church with the holiness of hope, grace and joy. As Pope Francis says, hope, grace and joy are siblings: all of them are gifts from Christ; furthermore they are other names for him that have been inscribed on his body.
Taking this even further, to be a good leader is also about reflecting the mercy of God. This is exactly what Saints Peter and Paul did. Paul reflected the mercy of God through his words and writings and Peter reflected the mercy of God through his work and actions. The two men were completely different individuals; however it was their faith in Jesus that brought them together so that they could work with mercy. As leaders, when we work with the holiness of hope, grace and joy and reflect the mercy of God, we too like Peter and Paul will be foundational and constructive in all that we do.
On a parish note, last week our parish together with NSW Police, PCYC, Parramatta Eels, White Stone and MaroniteCare worked in collaboration with each other to bring together our children, teens and youth to “Meet and Greet” their local police and football players who talked to them about some of the social issues that we are faced with in our community. The day was full of fun activities and informative talks and everyone got a chance to meet with the Parramatta Eel players. We thank the organisers of this event for their continued support to our community.
This week, we will be celebrating the First Holy Communion of 57 of our young children who have been preparing themselves to receive Christ through the sacrament of the Eucharist. This will be our second group for the year and we extend our congratulations to them, their parents and their wonderful teachers who have been volunteering their time for the last six months to prepare them for this day.
On a final note, our parish will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady between the 5th and 15th August this year. The theme for this year is “Mary, icon of the Father’s Mercy”. The program for Feast Week will be issued soon. If you would like to help us in any capacity, we will be holding a meeting on Monday 4th July at 7.00pm in the Seniors Room.
Brothers and Sisters,
In last week’s Gospel reading Jesus called his Apostles and sent them out on a mission. This week Jesus goes further! Not only does he expand the scope of their mission, but he tells them that they will be persecuted. This passage is actually quite daunting if you read it on face value. Persecution seems to be the order of the day, all because of their association with Jesus. If we reflect on this a little bit we will find that persecution was happening to them at the time, it happened even more after Jesus left them and it continues to happen to us today. If we reflect deeper into this passage and absorb what Jesus is saying we find that there is one explicit point that he makes: expect persecution, but do not live in fear.
Jesus speaks of four different areas in which persecution will come from. The first being: persecution from Religion (10:17). This is quite evident when we listen to the news and see how Christians are persecuted in certain countries because of their faith. The second is persecution from Government (10:18). In the past this has been in the form of Socialism and Communism and the like, however today this is taking another face; persecution by Government against our values, ideals and truths. This is especially witnessed in light of the changes to marriage which have been implemented or a being considered in certain places. The third is persecution from Family (10:21-22). This is probably the most difficult form of persecution. Sadly, some people are ostracized from their family because of Christ. Even within our own families, we find many disputes that relate to our values and beliefs. The fourth is persecution from Society (10:22). Here Jesus is referring to society as a whole and unfortunately sometimes even Christians. Our Christian beliefs and values are being questioned and persecuted by the media and by many groups.
In the face of all this persecution, our Lord teaches us not to fear and proclaims that “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Of course at times this is very difficult. So how do we live like “sheep in the midst of wolves?” Simply, we do this by living our Christian values. We need to be Christ-like in everything that we do and everything that we say. We should not repay hate with hate or anger with anger or persecution with persecution. We should live our faith in light of the Gospel and the teaching of our Church. It is through this example that they will know that we are Christians and it is this example that will save us. This does not mean that we stand idle and do nothing in the face of persecution. Remember, I said that we need to be Christ-like and Jesus certainly was not idle in the face of persecution. Our voice needs to be heard, yet we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Living what we preach and believe is the key!