Dearest Brothers and Sisters, After seven weeks of journeying with the Lord and reflecting on the cross we finally arrive at the pivotal point. The Gospel passages of the last seven weeks have been leading us and preparing us for this moment, the moment of judgement. This is the moment where the sheep will be separated from the goats. The good will be separated from the bad! But how can this be? The one who tells us not to judge is actually telling us that we will be judged.
We all know and understand this parable very well. One of the most important words in it is the word “I”. It is repeated eleven times. Jesus actually identifies himself with the people that he is speaking about. When he refers to the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned and so on, he is referring to himself. He is the “I”. After all, we are created in his image and likeness and he is present in us. Therefore when we help the person who is in need of us, we don’t help them for the sake of helping them but as Christians there is that added dimension that we are helping them because they are in the image of Christ. Jesus is shouting out to us “this is me.” This is where the Kingdom of Heaven exists. Contrary to what we imagine it to be, it exists where the poor are, where the sick are and so on. It exists wherever Jesus is! Let’s face it, if the human Jesus was here today in 2016, who would he be with? He would be with the drug addict, the prostitute, the poor, the sick, the outcast, no different to his presence over 2000 years ago. The Kingdom of God is at hand and it is at hand wherever Jesus is present. Today’s Gospel is a new law for us to abide by. Knowing what we know through this new law, we no longer have an excuse to be indifferent to the cry of those in need. On the basis of our actions, we will definitely be judged!
In the light of this, we need to ask ourselves a very important question: if the Last Judgment was to take place today, would we be on the side of the sheep or on the side of the goats?
Merciful Father in Heaven, Give us the ability to recognize your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in our brothers and sisters. Make us witnesses of his living presence amongst us on this earth through our actions so that we can truly say that your Kingdom is at hand and so that on the day when you will judge us, we will enter into your eternal majesty and glorify you, your only Son and your life-giving Spirit forever.
Father Tony Sarkis
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
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