Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are in the third week of the Season of Pentecost and today we reflect on our Christian life and how honest we are in living it. In the Letter of Saint Paul, he invites to live what Jesus says through our actions. And in the Gospel of this Sunday, it asks: What are the conditions of allowing Jesus to live in our hearts?
Over the last two weeks, over one hundred of our sons and daughters have experienced for the first time, Jesus in their hearts through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, receiving their first Holy Communion. In my homily, I asked the children, parents and teachers to explain to me “why they were so happy today?”
Ofcourse, many explained it is because they were receiving Jesus, others because it is the beginning of a new spiritual journey and so on. The joy on their faces was wonderful and the whole church was radiating this joy. I went on to tell them a little story about the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. He was a very powerful man who ruled many nations and nearly the whole world. One day, somebody asked him: What is the most important day in your life? They expected him to say: the day I was crowned Emperor or my royal wedding day or the day that he won a battle. But Napoleon answered by saying: “The most important day of my life was my First Holy Communion Day.”
Wow! What a response. I like many were amazed that this was his response. However, when we think about this a little bit, we really have no reason to be amazed. If we think about it clearly, this should really be the response of each one of us. Our first Holy Communion ofcourse should be the most important and happiest day of our lives because we are receiving our King and Saviour into our hearts. We are receiving God!
For this reason, we encourage our parents to help their children understand this reality. Although the Church tries very hard to teach your children and help them to understand the truth of our Catholic teachings, it is up to you to be their role models. Everything that we have taught them over the last five months is nothing compared to the example that you give them on a daily basis. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is not just an act that we must tick as completed on our list of things to do, it is a life-long commitment to the promises we make with Christ.
On behalf of my brother priests, I would like to congratulate all the children that received Holy Communion for the first time over the last two weeks and their families. I would also like to thank the Holy Communion teachers who have travelled with the children for the last five months preparing them to receive this holy sacrament. Your hard work and dedication is truly a testament to your love of Christ and his Church. May the Lord who is ever present in the Eucharist, be the source and summit of the abundant love of God in your lives.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, one God in three divine persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is very fitting that we celebrate this feast one week after the feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, because as I said last week, the Holy Spirit is fully revealed through our understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ at Pentecost and as such, the complete mystery of the Holy Trinity is also revealed.
If we pay attention to the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Church we will immediately recognise the Trinitarian dimension in our prayers. For instance, every Liturgy begins with the same basic Doxology: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever.” Every prayer ends with a Doxology also, “and we raise glory to you, to your Father and to you living Holy Spirit, for ever.” Further, the recitation of this Doxology is only carried out by the celebrating priest or Bishop, signifying the importance and sacredness. For example, if a Subdeacon or Deacon are chanting the Prayer of Forgiveness, when they arrive at the Doxology, they will say “with your blessing Father” or “barwkhmor aboun” and the celebrating priest or bishop will continue the Doxology.
Although the mystery of the Trinity is difficult to fathom for our human minds, it is only through the lens of faith expressed in the teaching of our Lord that we can understand it. In his prayer and teaching, Jesus revealed the Father and the Holy Spirit and he promised that the believers would experience the reality of this gracious, Three-fold Divine One in their lives. As Maronite Catholics the Holy Trinity is in fact the centre of our life.
Due to the high demand, the Month of May home visits were extended to last Tuesday. I would like to thank the Sodality for all their efforts in in bringing Our Lady into the homes of so many parishioners. Thank you also to their chaplain Father Youwakim and to all the priests and subdeacons who visited the homes of the faithful.
Our pastoral council met this week to discuss the preparations for the Feast of the Assumption which will take place from Friday 4 August to Tuesday 15 August this year. As usual the feast will be marked with many spiritual and social events.
On a final note, we will be saying farewell to one of our beloved priests this week. After seven years of service at Our Lady of Lebanon, Father Raphael will be leaving us to pursue his priestly vocation as a full-time chaplain in the Air Force. Father Raphael who is a unique individual is loved by all. His positive outlook, charisma and youthful stamina have added a beautiful dimension to our parish that will truly be missed. On behalf of all the clergy, staff, committees and parishioners, I take this opportunity to thank Father Raphael for everything that he has achieved and for his wonderful service during his time here. May Our Lady of Lebanon take your hand and guide you on this new journey and may the Most Holy Trinity bless you as you embark on a new chapter in your vocation.
On Thursday 15 June, the Feast of Corpus Christi, we will be offering the Divine Liturgy (Mass) in thanksgiving for Father Raphael at 6pm. This will be followed at 7pm by Adoration and procession of the blessed sacrament on the church grounds. We will then have a farewell cocktail for Father Raphael in the recreation room of the CYPC.
Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the baptism of the Church. With this feast, we begin a new liturgical season in our Maronite calendar, the Glorious Season of Pentecost which is also the longest season in the liturgical year. On this feast, we commemorate the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the upper room. Offcourse there are many references to the Holy Spirit in both the Old and the New Testaments, so have you ever asked yourself about the difference between the Holy Spirit referred to then and the Holy Spirit which appears at Pentecost?
When we think about the Holy Trinity, we find that first two out of the three persons are easier to understand than the third. God is easy to understand as the creator of all things. Jesus is also easy to understand because we distinctly know who he is and what he has done in and for the history of salvation. The Holy Spirit on the other hand is a little bit harder to grasp. What was the difference between the Holy Spirit before and after Pentecost? I can assure you that there is no difference before and after, however it is our understanding of Jesus; his life, death and resurrection that has changed things. As such, the Holy Spirit is now revealed in a different manner because of what Christ did for us. What has changed dramatically is our relationship to God and to each other which is now fulfilled when we know Christ and love him and attach ourselves to him. Therefore, everything is changed, everything is "new"! Pentecost brings a new beginning.
Liturgically, we celebrate this new beginning in two ways. The first is through the Rite of Adoration of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We kneel on the left knee to adore the Father, on the right knee to adore the Son and on both knees to adore the Holy Spirit which completes the Most Holy Trinity. The second is through the blessing and sprinkling with holy water. The holy water is a symbol that we use for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, just like it descended on the apostles two thousand years ago.
The question for us today is: are we ready to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to witness to Jesus Christ in our lives through everything that we do and say, through our personal, family, work and social life? If you haven’t already started, let this season of Pentecost be a time when you start. If you have fallen, then call on the Holy Spirit to help you to get up and start again. Don’t let the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon you go to waste.
Last Friday we had a very successful Gala Dinner. Our thanks again goes to everyone who organised and supported this event. We look forward to hopefully starting the work on the project very soon. The work never ends in our vibrant parish, as we complete one event, we now embark on the biggest event in our parish calendar, Feast Week. Our pastoral council will begin planning for this on Wednesday. Also a big thank you to Father Youwakim Noujaim and everyone who helped prepare the end of May procession. It was a beautiful prayerful night as always.