May 21, 2008
Archbishop Aboujaoude, Bishop Mansour;
Chorbishop Ashkar, Pastor
Chorbishop Beggiani, Seminary Rector
Chorbishop Thomas, Vicar General
Superior General Father Madi,
Monsignor Sadek; Beloved Priests, Deacons, Subdeacons and Seminarians;
Ambassador and Mrs. Chedid
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The readings for today’s liturgy are an inspiration for us in dealing with the present situation in Lebanon and throughout the world.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we have an account of all that the early apostles suffered to bring about the message of Jesus Christ, a message of peace and salvation. We read their sincere prayer to God when they cried out:
“For in this city (they meant Jerusalem) in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you appointed… and now O Lord look at their threats (against us) and grant your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal.” (Acts 4:23-31).
This scene in Jerusalem 2000 years ago seems to be so similar to Lebanon today. Indeed we need God’s help to counter threats, to speak the truth and to seek God’s hand to heal!
Maronites are called to witness to the message of Christ and His way of life with the same boldness, no matter what the cost and no matter what the consequences.
In the Gospel reading of today we encounter the great hope we are given by Christ in the midst of all our trials. Jesus says “I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15-17).
Jesus calls us friends because He loves us enough to let us know all that the Father is doing and who the Father is. To know the Father of Jesus Christ is to know that God is love. Love renders us willing to suffer any price for what is true, good, just and precious. When we love a person, love the Church, or love our country more than ourselves, we then love as Jesus loved us. This way of loving is what makes us friends to Christ and friends to one another.
The world of today, not too different from the Jerusalem of 2000 years ago, still has its threats and those who conspire against God’s peacemakers. Nonetheless, as His sons and daughters, we must continue to speak the truth in love, to seek God’s healing hand, and to remain Christ’s friends in this world.
This requires great courage and the special grace and motherly intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, under our special title of Our Lady of Lebanon. Through her prayers, and that of all the Saints, may the God of goodness and truth bless the Maronite Church, America, Lebanon and all the world.
Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir
(Reprinted with permission.)