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The Kingdom of God is at hand right now

Brothers and Sisters,

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples. His call has a two-fold purpose. The first is to form a community and the second is to give this community a mission. It is interesting how he calls each of the disciples by name. Of the Twelve Apostles seven have a name which comes from the time of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament.  Through these names we see a recapitulation of history. Further it reveals how each one of us is called by God by his or her name.  

Not only does Jesus call his disciples by name, but he is very clear in giving them instructions on what their mission will be. With explicit clarity he tells them what they need to do and who they are to see. We could really learn a thing or two from Jesus about our own communication skills. Are we clear in what we want to begin with, and then in stipulating this to others?  Jesus’ purpose was very clear! His mission was to bring about the Kingdom of God. This is what he calls us to do also; and thus his mission becomes our mission.

This mission is to bring about the Kingdom of God. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, teaches us that the Kingdom of God is at hand right now and available to everyone and he highlights the role of each one of us saying: “The kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society, and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God's activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of         salvation in all its fullness.” Therefore it is our mission to ensure that the marginalized people whom Christ himself identifies with have an equal share in the kingdom of God and realize God’s plan of salvation in the liberation from the suppressions and evils they currently face. This means that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustices that take place in our community, society or world. We can no longer sit back and watch the poor getting poorer; the marginalized being banished further, the abused being silenced and the oppressed being humiliated. We must be the instruments of Christ who truly bring about the Kingdom of God today and now.  

In our parish this week, 57 of our children (group 1 of 2) will be celebrating their first Holy Communion. Jesus is calling these children by name to be his new disciples. Let us all help them to grow in the love of Christ and truly bring about the Kingdom of God through our example. Congratulations to them and their families and a special thank you to the Holy Communion teacher volunteers who have worked so hard in preparing them for this special day.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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Mercy…Wealth at the Service of Poverty

Brothers and Sisters,

This week’s Gospel can be a little confusing if read out of context. After sending out the 72 disciples (men and women) on their mission without any resources “like lambs among wolves” (Lk 10:3) they return back to him full of joy and excitement exclaiming their success.  In hearing about this success, Jesus in turn is over joyed as he listens to their experiences and feels their profound joy. Their joy which stems from their experience makes him happy. Their joy stems from the fact that they have experienced Jesus and have carried out his work and this is what makes them happy.  Jesus calls them “infants” because they are as innocent as little children. They have gone out with nothing but have come back with so much. Through their missionary work they have come to understand God better than those who have spent their entire life learning and studying about him. These so called “little children” have been able to witness the Kingdom of God in the very basic and common things of life such as curing the sick, consoling the afflicted and showing mercy to the marginalised and displaced.  

Unlike the 72 disciples in those days, we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of resources available to us. However, having these resources does not limit us at all to become like the “little children” that our Lord talks about. It is not in the lack of resources that the disciples found joy, but rather in their experience of the work of Jesus. For this reason when we carry out his work, we too will experience this abundant joy. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary who lived in the 13th century was a queen with so much wealth at her disposal. She was well known for spending her wealth on the poor and marginalised and on building hospitals and homes for sick people. However her joy was not in providing the wealth, but in actually looking after the sick and needy. She would personally serve and nurse them to the great dismay of her relatives. She placed her wealth at the service of poverty and she experienced Jesus in her life by being a disciple of mercy. You and I know very well that wealth does not bring about happiness (at best it brings about a false sense of happiness); however placing this wealth and ourselves at the service of Jesus is what brings true happiness.

 In our parish we are very fortunate enough to have many disciples of mercy who spend their days and nights looking after the homeless, the imprisoned and the sick. Just recently, we have established a group called “Heaven on Earth” which carries out works of mercy in our society. They use their own resources to provide for the poor, needy and marginalised. Not only do they bring joy to these people but they find abundant joy in      carrying out the work of Christ. I encourage you to follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ ololheavenonearth) and provide them with any assistance that you can afford

Spiritual Bee Hive

Brothers and Sisters,

In this week’s Gospel, our Lord gives us a new commandment: “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This new commandment is arguably one of the most famous statements in the Bible. This command is new not only because of its object, but also because of its measure. The measure of love is, “as I have loved you.” In other words, in the same way that Jesus loves us and not as the world loves us. That is, in a sacrificial, humble, and intentional and concrete way. A love that is given without the expectation of anything in return!    

This is the kind of love that reminds us of the love that our mothers have for us. In the example of our Blessed Mother, our mothers continually give of themselves without asking for anything in return. On this special occasion of Mother’s Day, I would like to wish all of our Mother’s a happy and blessed Mother’s Day. Thank you for all that you do for us.  Thank you for your abundant love and compassion.  

hiveLast night our Annual Gala Dinner took place at the La Montage Function Centre and what a night it was. In my speech, I likened Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral Parish to a complex bee-hive of activity. As you know, a beehive’s purpose is to protect the dweller. Its internal structure is a densely packed group of hexagonal cells made from beeswax and in it hundreds and hundreds of bees work together to make honey. If you come to our Lady of Lebanon on any given day, you will see the same thing. You will see hundreds and hundreds of people working and cooperating together not to make honey, but rather to proclaim and live the Word of God. It is through this that its dwellers, the parishioners and friends of Our Lady of Lebanon are truly protected.  

Through over 22 committees and groups, you will find people of all ages and generations working together for people of all ages and generations and off-course for the Glory of God with Christ at the centre and the mantle of Our Lady’s motherly love caressing her children. The Community, Youth and Pastoral Centre facilitates this spirit and the funds that are raised at the Gala go towards the repayments and maintenance of this centre.  

I would like to thank all those who helped make the night a success from the organising committee led by Father Raphael, to the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Sponsors, to the Corporate Sponsors, Associations and Committee and to all our beloved parishioners who without them this spiritual bee-hive would have no meaning and no existence. Thank you one and all.

Do you love me? …. more than these

Brothers and Sisters,

The question “do you love me?” is probably the most asked question of all time. Even if we don’t ask this question verbally, I’m sure that most of us think about it all the time. In this week’s Gospel, we find Jesus asking Peter this very question not once, but three times. Although it seems that Peter gets very frustrated with Jesus for repeating the same question three times, it is a wonderful expression of Jesus’ linguistic mastery. In commissioning Peter to be the head of his Church, Jesus uses the oratory art of repetition to emphasise the importance of what he is asking Peter. What makes the question more powerful is the addition of “more than these.” Jesus is giving us a                  formula if you like of his expectation of us. Through Peter, he is asking us if we love him more than everything else in our lives; ourselves, spouses, parents, children, friends, relatives, careers, possessions, our pride, etc. If our answer is yes, then we too are also commissioned to “tend” and “feed” his flock. 

This reminds me of a famous colloquial Lebanese expression which we often say to our loved ones, “Toukbourni.” Literally, it means “bury me”, however the expression rather means “I love you to death.” We use this term often, however do we really understand its value or know what it truly means? To love someone to death is to love in the same way that our Lord loves us, because he loved us so much that he physically died for us. Are we prepared to do the same for those that we love? To love someone involves wanting to be with them night and day. It means that you just can’t get enough of them. You think and talk about them constantly. Your whole world revolves around them. You will do anything for them even if it means compromising yourself. You don’t want to displease or disappoint them. You are moved to tears when you think about them and especially when you feel that they have hurt you. To love someone means that you would put your own feelings, your own pride, your own word and even your own dignity to the side. To love someone means that you would die to yourself for them. 

Therefore, in order to love Jesus “more than these” we must first learn to love those that are around us “more than these.” In Amoris Laetitia, the Pope introduces a new way of doing this. It is an attitude of accompaniment and discernment. I will be speaking more about this in this corner in the coming weeks. 

On a parish note, we had a very busy week last week with the Teens camp, Fersen Fete and English Faith Formation talk on Pornography. Thank you to all our wonderful committees who work extremely hard to ensure that our parish continues to be a hub of faith and love which always responds to our Lord’s call to follow him and only him. \

Fr Tony Sarkis

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