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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

Setting our minds on the Heavenly instead of the Earthly

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As I’ve mentioned in the last two weeks, the Gospel passages in this Season of the Exaltation of the Glorious Cross have been rather confronting. Today’s Gospel passage is no different! In fact both the Gospel passage and the Epistle are quite challenging both speaking of the coming of God and eternal life. We are faced with the contrast of victory and defeat. Victory when we set our minds on the heavenly things and defeat when we set our minds on the earthly things!  

As we reflect on the Holy Cross which has been and still is the sign of victory, as opposed to a sign of punishment, humiliation, pain and suffering, we come to know that with Jesus everything has changed. The first becomes last and the last becomes first!  Nothing is defeated with Him! The sign of death becomes a sign of salvation because of him. Unfortunately, our human nature focuses on vanity, material wealth, selfishness, pride and hierarchy; however, with Jesus we draw our wealth from his Cross in a spirit of selflessness, humility, sacrifice, service and simplicity.

Saint Paul tells us in his letter, do as I do, and look at those who are walking like us in a spirit of selflessness and acceptance of suffering for the love of Jesus Christ in the same way that he did for the love of his Father in heaven. We should not be like those who are concerned only about their belly and their own glory in the matters that pertain to this world because it is so easy for us to be consumed by the earthly. Rather, we need to do as Saint Paul tells us and in turn we too become examples to others, leading the way and truly earning our heavenly citizenship.

Our Lady was and continues to be a shining example of someone who through the history of salvation has earnt her citizenship into heaven, body and soul. Through her example and prayers, she continually guides us to heaven. As we celebrate this Sunday the Feast of the Holy Rosary and devote the month of October to our Lady, I encourage you all to pray the rosary with your families, with your friends and with your parish. Through the rosary, we contemplate on the selfless life of our Lord who leads us to the bosom of his Father in Heaven. As a parish we pray the rosary together in Arabic and English every day. Please make an extra effort this month and join our prayer groups and experience the power of praying together as a community.

As I approach the conclusion of my trip to Lebanon, I am happy to see the wonderful events and activities that continue to take place through the various social media channels. From the English Faith Formation talks          organised by Father Yuhanna Azize and his committee, to the Seniors activities, Sodality trip to Saint Rafqa, to the procession on the Feast of the Rosary in addition to all the work behind the scenes of the Stewardship Committee. May God bless all our priests and committees who have truly set their minds on the heavenly things!

Blessings from Lebanon, Father Tony Sarkis

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