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Expect persecution but do not live in fear

Brothers and Sisters,

In last week’s Gospel reading Jesus called his Apostles and sent them out on a mission. This week Jesus goes   further! Not only does he expand the scope of their mission, but he tells them that they will be persecuted. This passage is actually quite daunting if you read it on face value. Persecution seems to be the order of the day, all because of their association with Jesus. If we reflect on this a little bit we will find that persecution was happening to them at the time, it happened even more after Jesus left them and it continues to happen to us today. If we reflect deeper into this passage and absorb what Jesus is saying we find that there is one explicit point that he makes: expect persecution, but do not live in fear.  

Jesus speaks of four different areas in which persecution will come from. The first being: persecution from Religion (10:17). This is quite evident when we listen to the news and see how Christians are persecuted in certain countries because of their faith. The second is persecution from Government (10:18).  In the past this has been in the form of Socialism and Communism and the like, however today this is taking another face; persecution by Government against our values, ideals and truths. This is especially witnessed in light of the changes to marriage which have been implemented or a being considered in certain places. The third is persecution from Family (10:21-22). This is probably the most difficult form of persecution. Sadly, some people are ostracized from their family because of Christ. Even within our own families, we find many disputes that relate to our values and beliefs. The fourth is persecution from Society (10:22). Here Jesus is referring to society as a whole and unfortunately sometimes even Christians. Our Christian beliefs and values are being questioned and persecuted by the media and by many groups.  

In the face of all this persecution, our Lord teaches us not to fear and proclaims that “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  Of course at times this is very difficult. So how do we live like “sheep in the midst of wolves?” Simply, we do this by living our Christian values. We need to be Christ-like in everything that we do and everything that we say. We should not repay hate with hate or anger with anger or persecution with persecution. We should live our faith in light of the Gospel and the teaching of our Church. It is through this example that they will know that we are Christians and it is this example that will save us. This does not mean that we stand idle and do nothing in the face of persecution. Remember, I said that we need to be Christ-like and Jesus certainly was not idle in the face of persecution. Our voice needs to be heard, yet we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Living what we preach and believe is the key!

Fr Tony Sarkis

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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

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