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Do You Love Me?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We continue this week from where we left off in the Gospel of John. After they had breakfast, Jesus sat with Peter and asked him three times if he loved him. This is one of the last encounters that Jesus has with Peter and a very important one at that. Peter affirmatively responds three times with a yes to Jesus and each time Jesus entrusts him with the mission of taking care of his flock. You will notice that Jesus doesn’t ask Peter if he will be obedient, bow down to him or if he will follow his commands. He doesn’t ask him if he is an expert in philosophy or a scholar in Scripture or specialises in a particular branch of theology. Jesus simply asks him “Do you love me?” All Jesus asks for is love and it is this love that is central to our mission as followers of Christ.

As we carry out the mission of Christ, this love will most of the time take us to places that we do not want to go. This is what Jesus explains to Peter and to us today. Many times we are taken to the gates of hell by people that we love and trust. They even open up the gates for us and lead us to anger, hatred, resentment, vengeful thoughts. They lead us to sin! Unfortunately, they lead us to sin in his name. However, our service to these people in love will prevail and this is what will lead and guide us. You see, this is all that matters to Jesus, love. At the end of the day, it will not matter how many degrees I have or how many books I have written. The only thing that will matter is how much I loved!

Our Lady is an icon of this love. She is a wonderful example of compassion and affection. Our Lady always takes us to the place that our heart desires, the place in which we yearn for, she always takes us to her son Jesus. As we celebrate the one hundred year anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta; between May 13 and October 13, 1917; let us always remember to call on her intercession to lead us to her son, Jesus.

Like Our Lady, our mother’s also lead us to places that we want to go, peaceful and secure places where we feel the warmth of their tenderness and love. Our parish celebrated Mother’s Day on Tuesday with a beautiful Mass and luncheon. Our thanks go to Father Youwakim Noujaim, Subdeacon Danny Nouh and the ladies from our committees who worked together to make the day a beautiful day in which we honour the mothers of our parish. On behalf of all the clergy I would like to wish all our Mother’s a Blessed Mother’s Day. Thank you for all the sacrifices that you make for us. You are the love that shines like a beacon in our lives.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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With Jesus, the impossible can be achieved!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our Lord appears for the third time after his Resurrection in this week’s Gospel passage. The apostles had gone back to their normal jobs after the recent events that had taken place. They were angry, confused and hopeless and to make matters worse, even their job as fishermen was not giving them any satisfaction because they were unable to catch any fish. Jesus, having seen that they had not caught a thing, suggested to throw the net on the other side of the boat. At this stage, he was still unknown to them. Having nothing to lose, they did just as he suggested. Shocked by such a huge large catch, they put the pieces of the puzzle together and recognized the person on the shore to be Jesus. Peter in his usual sporadic fashion, instantaneously dived into the water and swam while the others returned to shore and all responded to Jesus’ request to eat together.

This scene connected the post-resurrected Jesus with the one they had lived with for the last three years. He ate fish. He knew them in and out. Jesus not only arose but was meeting with them as before. But more than proof of a physical resurrection, we see Jesus’ commitment to communion with them and his desire to continue to work with them. The Apostles can do nothing of worth on their own - not even catch a fish, and with gentleness the Lord reminds them that with him, they can do the impossible. This is our story too! We tend to lock ourselves up in our own little world, just like the Apostles did, and only later do we come to realize that there is someone missing - the Lord. The Lord will not allow any barriers to get in his way. He will reveal himself, one way or another, and not allow any of his sheep to wander too far off. Therefore, when we too are angry, confused and have lost hope, we must also remember that we can do nothing of worth without Jesus. He is our hope and our strength and it is only through him and with him that we too can do the impossible.

The month of May home visits continue this week with Our Lady. It has been beautiful to see families gathering together in prayer. We need to encourage this not only during this month, but every day of our lives. This coming week we will be honouring our mothers on Tuesday 9 May beginning at 10.30am with a Mass and then a luncheon in the Cathedral Hall. Please don’t miss out on buying a ticket for your mother. On Friday 12 May, the Novena to Saint Rita begins after the 6pm Mass. We will be praying for the persecuted Christians in Egypt this year through the intercession of Saint Rita. On Saturday 13 May at 9am, our brothers and sisters from the Latin Rite will be joining us to celebrate 100 years of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. We will start here at the Cathedral with morning prayers, then process with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, where we will celebrate Mass and have lunch together. I look forward to seeing you all at these events.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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Living the Mass in your daily life

Today in our Maronite Church we here the familiar Gospel passage about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke’s Gospel tells us the story of the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32) were on the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus’s disciples encounter the Risen Lord along the road. Although they could not recognize him to begin with, after they here the scriptures proclaimed to them and participate in the breaking of the bread – their eyes are opened to finally recognize Jesus. The disciples remarked to each other: “were not out hearts burning when he spoke to us about the scriptures” and when they returned to Jerusalem, they told the story to the other disciples, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. This combination of hearing the Word of God from the Scriptures and partaking in the Eucharistic celebrations is the most central way in which Jesus makes himself known to the Church today, the celebration of the Mass. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus walks with us and makes himself completely known to us through the Mass. However, the question remains, how do we respond after sharing in this beautiful mystery. The disciples on the Emmaus road, immediately got up and went back to Jerusalem to be with the other followers of Christ and lived their lives inspired and guided by the communion and transformation they experienced from hearing the word of God and receiving the Word of God in the Eucharist. For us today, we must make strong efforts to share and live our lives inspired by the love and communion found in the Mass. If we see the Eucharist as a big vitamin pill for our own private spiritual health, or go to Mass locked in our own little world, then we misunderstand it. Receiving the Eucharist is not just a private act of faith but a public sign of Commitment to our relationship with Jesus AND with one another as Christ’s body. Some practical things we can do to live in this spirit: Comfort those in need, pray for the people who we know are in need and also try to care for their physical needs, show our appreciation for the tireless work of our priests and other volunteers who work so selflessly in our parish. In the Mass, we are called to receive love to then share that love with everyone we encounter.

A big thank you to our Fersan leaders and all who helped and attended the Fersan Fete last Sunday, the day was a success. We also held a Retreat day for all the leaders of our parish, we pray God’s continual blessing on all those who selflessly serve. This week our Pastoral Council met on Wednesday night to discuss and plan many upcoming events including the visit of His Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri – Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches. The 11am Mass on the 7th of May will be celebrated by Bishop Antoine Charbel Tarabay and presided by Cardinal Sandri to mark this important visit. On the 13th of May there will be a procession from our Parish to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions. The morning will begin at 9am with prayers here at Our Lady and conclude with Mass at St Patrick’s. Finally, our Annual Parish Gala Fund Raiser Dinner will take place on the 26th of May at the Clarence House in Belmore. To book please contact the Parish office. Wishing you a blessed week inspired by the love of God, given to us in his Word and in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Fr Tony Sarkis

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