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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

The Servant’s Word

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this second Sunday after the Feast of the Exaltation of Glorious Cross we are in a certain way provoked with another rather challenging Gospel passage. Today’s Gospel depicts the sad state of the world that we live in and we often wonder why there is so much despair and misery. It speaks of wars, famine, earthquakes, torture, hatred and death, false prophets and betrayal, lawlessness and loss of love. It is a rather pessimistic picture! If we look around us, not much has changed. We are still challenged with the same issues, however in a different context. The biggest challenge to us as Christians today is our identity. Society is using our God created identity to tell us that we no longer need to worry about this if we “feel” that our identity is something different. The whole debate about gender theory which we are being threatened with is what society is using to eliminate God. When we start playing with the gifts that our creator has given us, we start playing the role of God. Unfortunately, these “false prophets” are leading “many astray”.

So it would seem that Jesus has every right to declare that not one stone will be left upon another in the Temple? Is this because he wishes to harm? Or it is in his nature to destroy? Or is it because he has another purpose, to build a live Temple in which He lives and frees humanity; returning it to its roots and its freewill, its happiness and its victory over its evil ways, so that it can begin anew in a journey that activates the joy and care of God? The Temple with Jesus is no longer made of stone, rather it is a heart that pumps love, peace and self-giving.

For this reason we see Jesus advising us to go beyond our limited humanity and all the passions and barriers that it entails. Humanity should strive to express its abilities and talents for the good work that reflects the presence of God, His favour and richness. Because the Lord requires a lively Temple rather than a stone one, full of security and tranquillity, victory and fertility, vigil and care, to actuate the fruits of His holiness, its purity and liveliness. No longer is the stone Temple the ultimate goal for God to dwell with us. It is no longer the place that gathers and unites humanity. However, Jesus has transformed it to a lively place that he will live in and in it he will be the eternally living sacrifice that is offered for the redemption of humanity and its return to the port of salvation, so that it can truly be the place in which God dwells and through it reflect His abilities, His greatness and His richness. Let us be vigilant in combating all the attempts to eliminate God from our lives.

Blessings from Lebanon, Father Tony Sarkis

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