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“Blessed are those who have not seen.”

Dearest Brothers and Sisters,

The Resurrection of our Lord is the pillar on which our faith is built. If it wasn’t for the Resurrection, then our faith would be futile. Saint Paul teaches us “if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain”
(1 Cor 15:14). The Resurrection is the most important event in the history of humanity. However, it is an event that challenges us personally because it is beyond our human understanding. Jesus dislikes those who look for signs and miracles to believe and this week he puts Thomas (and us) to the test. The gift of our faith is a gift of love and trust. Although we have not seen with our eyes, this gift of love and trust drives us to believe and to be witnesses to the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus. Our challenge daily is to profess this truth with love and trust!

On behalf of the clergy, staff, committees and all our parishioners, I would like to offer my condolences to Father Raphael Abboud whose brother entered into eternal life last week unexpectedly. His Excellency, Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the rest of his soul on Thursday evening. It was wonderful to see so many of you standing by Father Raphael in his time of human loss. On behalf of Father Raphael, I thank you all for your support.

On Thursday, the Seniors committee had their Easter Mass and lunch. It was heart-warming to see so many of our seniors attend and enjoy the day. A very big thank you is extended to Father Bernard, Sister Guitta and the Seniors Committee for their hard work and dedication in caring for our seniors.

The Divine Mercy Novena began on Great Friday and will conclude with prayers, confession and a Mass today beginning at 3pm. Thank you to Subdeacon Robert Albayeh and the Divine Mercy team for organising the prayers and celebrations. Speaking of Divine Mercy, I would like to welcome back Father Paul Joubeir who has been in Brazil with his family for the last few weeks.

On a final note, I would like to encourage you all to participate in our upcoming events and celebrations. These include; the Month of May home visits: there are still a few nights left if anyone is interested. On 7 May, the Cathedral will be hosting the visit of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in the Vatican with a Mass at 11am. Our Mother’s Day Mass and luncheon will be held on Tuesday 9 May at 10.30am (tickets are now available). On 14 May, there will be a procession from our Cathedral to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta with the Our Lady of Fatima statue. Our Annual Gala Dinner will take place on the 26 May at the Clarence House in Belmore to raise funds to replace the statute at the top of the church and carry out much needed repairs to the grotto and shelter. Let’s all work together as the active members of the Body of Christ so that through all these events and celebrations we can truly glorify God and serve his people.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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The Supreme Witness to the Resurrection

risenDearest Brothers and Sisters,

It is with an earnest cry that we greet each other this year in the wake of the tragedy that has taken place in Egypt. Yet again we find ourselves in the midst of despair, anger and loss at a time when we should be celebrating with joy because of the victory that was achieved on our behalf through the Resurrection of The King. Suicide bombers attacked two Coptic Churches in northern Egypt on Hosanna Sunday killing forty-four people. Forty-four new martyrs have been added to the scrolls at the gates of heaven because they bore supreme witness to the Resurrection of The King, their faith being their only crime in the eyes of their perpetrators. Year after year, these scrolls are being populated with the names of people who are loved, people who love and people who put the witness of their faith into action. Although they did not choose their destiny, they lived their faith to the ultimate degree of sacrifice; in the footsteps of The King, the Supreme Martyr.

Pope Francis teaches us that: “a Church without martyrs is a church without Jesus.” In this Jubilee Year of Martyrdom and Martyrs in our Maronite Church, we celebrate the witness of the martyrs to their faith. Not only do we celebrate the many martyrs in the history of the Maronite Church, but we also celebrate the martyrs who everyday give up their lives. Further we celebrate the white martyrs who suffer persecution and torture today and every day. As difficult as this may be, yes, we celebrate them because they have earned the eternal reward of the heavenly kingdom. Each drop of blood is a sign of victory because it is a drop of love and forgiveness which cries out with the Lord: “forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing.” Each drop of blood is a shout to the mothers and fathers to stop weeping because “He is Risen, He is truly Risen.” Each drop of blood is a call to the nations to take action against injustice. Each drop of blood is a reminder to us of the ultimate and supreme sacrifice that we must be ready to make so that we can truly be witnesses to the Resurrection of The King. Are we ready to make this sacrifice?

We are a people of faith, hope and love and we are witnesses to the Resurrection through the work that we do here in our parish. Over the last few weeks of Lent and during Passion Week, I cannot but testify to the great faith of our parishioners. The church and church grounds have overflown with the many faithful that have taken part in all our celebrations. The wonderful work of our parishioners in making everyone who comes to Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral feel welcomed into their home is something that I am very proud to proclaim aloud. Day after day, you have worked tirelessly to serve and to help others come closer to the Risen Lord. Through your actions, you have helped them on their journey to the Resurrection. Every member of the clergy, every staff member, every committee member and every volunteer has contributed so much to the mission of our parish. I thank you all for your contributions no matter how big or how small. Through your actions, my brothers and sisters, you are circulating the unending drops of blood of the martyrs through the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your witness is a clear message to those who are trying to eliminate us!

Christ is Risen…He is truly Risen, and we are witnesses to this!

Reaching out to God no matter what!

The Sunday of the Blind is the sixth Sunday in the season of Great Lent and brings us into the final two weeks of our Lenten Journey. Bartimaeus (the blind man) from today’s Gospel can teach us many things. We can sometimes fall in to the trap of thinking the things we lack can prohibit us or exclude us from being happy or from reaching out to God and being close with him; Bartimaeus shows us otherwise. Despite being blind and cast off to the roadside, Bartimaeus was not afraid to use what he had to seek out Jesus; using his ears to hear that Jesus was near then using his voice to call out to him. Bartimaeus also teaches us to be courageous; when the people tried to silence him, he ignored them and continued to cry out, asking for Jesus to show him mercy.

In today’s world more than ever, we have many people in opposition to our faith and try to stop us from calling Jesus’ name; however, like Bartimaeus we are called to be courageous and fearless in acknowledging Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. In calling out to Jesus, Bartimaeus showed incredible faith, knowing with certainty that Jesus would stop and help him, he had faith Jesus would bring him to the Harbour of Salvation. As we journey towards Hosanna Sunday and Passion Week, we ask the Lord to remain with us and guide us as we journey towards the Harbour of Salvation.

This week has been another busy one at a parish level with our Stewardship committee meeting on Monday and our Seniors committee also having their fortnightly gathering and activities on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Sodalities led by Fr Youwakim continued with their weekly Lenten lunch in the presence of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, presenting him with two donations from the money that they raised at these lunches. One to take with him to Egypt to help the Christian Churches in May and one to MaroniteCare. Our Youth also took time away from their everyday lives whilst on their retreat this weekend; a thank you to Fr Raphael, Sr Margaret and Subdeacon Charbel for leading them on the retreat. As we know, next Sunday is Hosanna Sunday and I encourage you to take the Program which will detail all the Mass times and spiritual events of Passion Week beginning on Hosanna Sunday through to New Sunday.

I pray you have a blessed week.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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