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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

Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this first Sunday after the Feast of the Exaltation of Glorious Cross we are confronted with a rather challenging Gospel passage. It contradicts everything that society teaches, it contradicts everything that we are taught at university or work about leadership, but yet again it gives us a charter on how we should live our Christian lives. Sometimes when we read what Jesus says we question ourselves: “does this man really know what he is talking about?” I mean who in this day and age would instruct us to “be servants” or “slaves”? Everyone encourages us to be strong leaders. We are challenged to get to the top at whatever cost, be it through status, fame, money, power and unfortunately oppression of others. But Jesus came to teach us a new way of getting to the top. He taught us that we must serve everyone with love. He taught us that we must humble ourselves not to reach the top of the organisation that we are working for but to reach the ultimate “top” which is the heavenly kingdom.

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“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant”, is a difficult constitution to follow, but these are the words of a true leader. If we take a moment to think about these words, we can see how right Jesus was. Let’s face it, who would you prefer to be your leader, someone who is arrogant, pompous or selfish; someone who is proud and is only concerned about rank or status! Or would you prefer someone who is humble, someone who is kind, generous, loving; someone 

who respects your opinion, your freedom and your dignity! I know that I would choose the later; I would choose someone who is like Jesus, the true leader. Let us always look to our Lord as our ultimate example and truly live and proclaim his words in everything that we do and everything that we say.

Well, I can truly say that I am missing everyone at the parish. Although my time here in Lebanon has given me the opportunity to spend some time with my family and especially my baby nephew; and also to rest, seeing all the activity in the parish via social media really stirs in my emotions of love and attachment to Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral. I watched with great joy the procession that took place on Tuesday night. It is wonderful that we continue to live out our Maronite traditions in Australia. Thank you to Father Youwakim and Fr Pierre for organising and leading the procession with our Bishop. Also, this week the courses on the Maronite Church and traditions have begun through our English Faith Formation Committee and I encourage you all to take part in them so that you can discover and understand the treasures of our Maronite Church.

Blessings from Lebanon,

Fr Tony Sarkis

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