As we welcome this new year of 2017 we firstly give thanks to God for all the blessings and challenges we experienced together as a Parish family. In our Gospel reading for today we hear Jesus tell his disciples (and us also) “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” and when reflecting on these words we can’t help but think about our undeniable need for the Peace of Jesus. In 2016 alone, the world witnessed dozens of terrorist attacks in different parts of the world including some in our beloved country Lebanon. Along with these acts of violence, we witnessed the unrest of many caused by a variety of issues. Even in our own homes and in the depths of our own hearts, many of us struggle to find the peace that Christ gives to us. So how can we find this peace? The answer for us as Maronite Catholics is simple; we find the Peace of Christ and receive it in the most complete way in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy (the Mass). In our liturgy, we hear four times “Peace be with you”, our Rite of Peace involves the peace of Christ coming from his holy Altar and passed to the people present and after receiving the Prince of Peace in Communion, we are commissioned to “Go in Peace”. We are called in the highest form of our prayer to receive the peace of Christ and share this peace with all who encounter us. I pray that this may be our goal and our prayer as the people of God in Sydney, Australia in 2017, to be Icons of the Peace of Christ for all people.
Continuing on from our Christmas celebration and as we journey through the Season of the Birth of our Lord, we come to our next great feast, the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord on the 6th of January. We will be celebrating the feast with a Vigil Mass (including the Rite of blessings of the water and baptismal promise renewal) on Thursday 5th of January at 10pm. The Mass times on Friday will be 7am, 8:45am and 6pm. Again I would like to extend a thank you to all the great people who helped with our various spiritual and social events of 2016 and I pray that the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Lord bless you and your loved ones with a happy, prosperous and holy 2017.
Happy New Year!
Father Tony Sarkis
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
From year to year, the Birth of our Lord always brings with it an additional dimension of faith, hope and love. The birthday of this Divine Child is not a normal birthday celebration. The more that we celebrate it, the more that we delve deeper into the mystery that is our Lord. On the night of his birth he brought great joy into this world. A joy that even up till now we cannot fathom nor comprehend. Jesus brought light into this darkened earth because he is the light that the darkness could not overcome! Jesus came and he brought with him the love of his Father; a love whose splendor cannot be measured. How fortunate and blest was this earth to see, touch, smell and feel our Lord. With Isaiah on this day we cry out: “Shower, O Heavens from above, and let the skies rain down the Righteous One.”
As we ponder on the Divine Child with Mary, our eyes are filled with his purity and innocence. With Joseph, we anticipate the hope that he will bring to all nations. With the angels, we praise, glorify and honour him. With the Shepherds, we bring all our dreams and wishes to his humble manger. And with the three kings we bow down before his majesty and adore him. How beautiful is the Divine Child that has been sent from above? Through him hope has overcome despair, joy has overcome sorrow, life has overcome death and the light has truly overcome the darkness. Through the birth of Jesus our relationship with our heavenly Father has been restored because he is the bridge that has redeemed and saved us. Yes, he is the bridge because without him we have no path to heaven! For this, we have no reason to despair. We are the children of joy! At times, it may seem hard to feel this as we journey through this life, however let us always try to remember this during this festive season and always. We are the children of joy!
As we continue our journey we come to the end of another year. A year in which we have grown so much, learnt so much and loved so much. A year which has been filled with new and exciting paths, challenging paths. Jesus continues to unveil his will for us and we continue to grow in love with him. The more challenges he places in our lives, the more we keep coming back for more and more. The closer we get to him, the harder that we must work to reach him.
On behalf of my brother priests and subdeacons, I would like to wish each and every one of you a joyful Christmas that brings with it a great sense of hope for the coming year. Thank you to all our staff, committees and volunteers who work tirelessly day in and day out to ensure that our parish continues to radiate the light of the Divine Child. Thank you to all the businesses, community groups and government departments who continually support all the work that we do. And of course a special thanks to you, our parishioners, who if it wasn’t for you we would not exist. May the birth of our Lord be the Light that overcomes every darkened area in your lives.
Christ is born. Alleluia!
Father Tony Sarkis
“Emmauel, The Light the darkness could not overcome!” is the Parish theme chosen for the Season of the Glorious Birth of our Lord. Meditating and reflecting upon this theme and the Sunday Gospels throughout the Season, we will realise that this theme is perfectly chosen and truly befitting.
On the first Sunday, an aged and barren couple, whom in the eyes of the community were seen as sinners because they could not have children, are told that they will have a son. The darkness would not overcome their light. On the second Sunday, the Light is made flesh through the “yes” of a Virgin. Light and hope is being through the cooperation of Mary with the Will of the Father. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is the third Sunday in the Season of the Glorious Birth. Mary, carrying the Light of the World in her womb goes to visit and serve her cousin. The birth of John the Baptist of the fourth Sunday is proof that God is merciful to those who seek it, this mercy is Light for all those who are in darkness. On the fifth Sunday, we see Righteous Joseph caught in a bit of a dilemma. He experiences some darkness about what to do with his pregnant fiancé. The angel appears and sheds Light on his problem. Genealogy Sunday is the final Sunday before the Birth of Christ. A quick glance at Christs’ ancestors reveals both Saints and Sinners. Regardless of family history or how dark some of the relatives may be, light overcomes it.
All the above Gospels lead us to the birth of Emmanuel. The birth of Christ is the birth of Light. It is the birth of a new hope and the birth of the salvation of the world. It is the birth of a Saviour whose life was to show the love of the Father to all humankind. It is the Birth of Emmanuel; the Light the darkness could not overcome.
My dearest Parishioners, in our world darkened by pleasures of the flesh, we are in desperate need of the Light. As baptised children of God, it is our duty and responsibility to help spread this Light throughout the world. We are called to be witnesses to the Light of the World and to ensure that the darkness does not overcome it.
I would like to thank the men and women who helped light up our Church grounds with Christmas lights and to those who put together the Christmas tree and Nativity Scene in the CPYC and in the Church. This week, the Seniors’ Committee celebrated a Christmas Mass and Christmas party for our senior citizens. On Thursday night, the Sodality celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with renewal of vows followed by a Cocktail. The Come Alive Road Trip to St Mary’s Cathedral for the opening of the Christmas lights display was also a great success. Thanks to those who organised this event. Our Fersen children also celebrated Christmas as a family with their annual Christmas party. Brothers and sisters, our Maronite Christmas Novena begins on the Thursday 15th December, please check our Facebook for more information. Finally, our annual Carols by Candlelight will be held on the 16th December. Father Tony Sarkis
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week we arrive at a very important station in our preparations for the Birth of our Lord. John whom we know as the forerunner to Jesus is born. In this passage we find the joy that the new born brings to the old and frail couple Zechariah and Elizabeth and we also see the calamity that society brings with it to override this joy. Zechariah and Elizabeth who had come to understand the will of God in their life, however their neighbours and relatives were still infused with the social precepts and laws. Elizabeth wanted to name her son John, which means God is compassionate, yet everyone around her thought that she was crazy because she was going against the norms of her society which dictated that he should be named Zechariah, after his father.
Of course Zechariah who after many months of silence and full of the knowledge of God’s will for his family took action and in his muteness, spoke and broke all the barriers that society was choking him with. Although a priest and a man of great faith, society had been choking him with its expectations. Through his silence, he came to realise that following social norms was not so important. What was important was activating the will of God in his life. This activation of God’s will empowered him to speak up and break his silence.
The question for us today is very important. Are we activating the will of God in our life or are we enslaving ourselves to the social norms that our society demands of us? There is a constant pull in two opposing directions. Society pulls us in one direction while God pulls us in another. It is up to us to be strong enough to be able to pull harder in the direction that God leads us as this is the ultimate source of truth and life.
On a parish note, last Sunday the Family Committee organised a beautiful one day retreat for families. Eighteen families attended the retreat and over half of them were new families who had not regularly attended such spiritual days. The theme of the day was “a family who prays together stays together.” The day was rich with spiritual and social activities and it truly emphasised the importance of the family in our society. Thank you to all who took part in the organisation of this day. A special thanks to the members of the Family, Fersen and Teens committees who have been working very hard to prepare the day. Also, our Christmas program has been finalised by the Pastoral Council who met this week. Please be sure to take a copy home so that you can fully participate in all the spiritual and social events and truly bring the spirit of Christmas into your lives this year. Our theme this year is: Emmanuel, The Light that the Darkness could not overcome. I will be speaking more about this in the weeks to come.
Father Tony Sarkis