Today’s Gospel, the Birth of John the Baptist, is one of a series that leads us to the great announcement of the angels “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth and goodwill to all…..Christ is born!” In the season of Christmas, the meaning of everything becomes clearer to us. We pause to reflect on just Who is Christ to us, and what does it mean that we in Troy are His parish.
Any parish can live 100 years, but not every parish can do it as well as you have. I have visited two times this past year, and each time the faith of this community, your devotion to your families and your church, the vocations to priestly and religious life, speak of who you are – faithful, vibrant and beautiful. Don’t be shy about the beauty you possess, share it; especially when you move to your beautiful new Church in Waterveliet! You now find yourselves are in a new springtime.
As we prepare to stand at this Altar and offer the Sacrament of our salvation, I’d like to focus on two ancient doctrines “the Forgiveness of Sins”, and the “Communion of Saints.” The Church believes that every time we pray and work in the name of Christ – especially when we offer the most perfect of prayers, the Eucharist – we pray in communion with others, the living and the dead.
The “Communion of Saints” does not mean just the “saints”, it refers to us, all believers, though we are far from “saints.” It also includes the faithful who have died in human imperfection. This communion is threefold according to an “old” description that still works well. The Church “triumphant” is the saints in heaven; the Church “suffering”, is those who have died in human imperfection and are now in the process of Purgatory (not so much a place but a process) and the Church “militant” is us. We are still striving for holiness here on earth, and like the souls in Purgatory, are in need of purification so that one day we will be ready to meet God face to face. This is the idea behind this article of faith: we all share a real communion with one another and with Christ the Perfector of our union.
There is also another ancient article of faith that is the “Forgiveness of Sins”. Like the “Communion of Saints” this doctrine is also found in the Apostle’s Creed. It means that God forgives sins, and he shares this with His Church. Thus, with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, we are never alone, and with the doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins, we realize that what we do matters to ourselves and for others. Thus we can come to God with hearts open to receive his forgiveness.
Thank God for the “Forgiveness of Sins” for without it who could survive our families and close knit churches? Without God and our own forgiveness we are doomed to bitterness and resentment! If God thus forgives us, couldn’t we return the favor by forgiving others? Isn’t it a good time here and now?
In 1905 Father Gabriel Korkamez gathered a small group in a small place that barely held a dozen people; thus you began your faith journey. In a spirit of gratitude for those who have gone before us, we pray for our youth, elders, and families. We thank God for the parishioners who have so proudly and lovingly served along with their priest. We are grateful for Monsignor Joseph Kaddo and the late Fathers Joe Kayrouz and Jack Turner, three beautiful priestly vocations from this parish. Joe – we are especially proud of you! We thank God for your parents and families. We mention Sister Rose Atiya – who came from this parish. We acknowledge Fathers Gabriel, Stephen, Paul and John Korkamez all who came here from Lebanon to serve, without them we would not have Saint Ann’s.
A fire could not deter the faithful priests and people of this parish. We recall the other priests who served and help build up this parish, Fathers Coover, Thomas, Mooradd, Zogheib and Morrison, and the Latin priests who have assisted us. We thank God for our priests, who like God’s people are not saints, but they struggle, and with God’s grace all is possible. We thank God for Father Elie. He is a good priest, a young but wise pastor, a father and a faithful brother to you. One person does make a difference and it is true that one candle illuminates the darkness.
We thank God for all those who made this day possible as a labor of love and dedication. In the midst of all those mentioned and those who have lived lives of quiet spiritual heroism and have gone unnoticed, we thank God and pray in union with Saint Ann the patron of this parish, as well as Mary, her daughter, and the Mother of God.
In the midst of the “Communion of Saints” we worship and honor Jesus Christ, the “faithful witness” as the Book of Revelations describes Him. He stands in our midst as a Lampstand giving light to all in the household of faith. His self-giving death on a Cross, from which we receive our own pardon and inspiration, we commemorate in this Liturgy. His Last Supper is made present once again as we meet our Eucharistic Lord in the breaking of the Bread.
It is today our privilege to partake of Sunday Mass as has been done here for 100 years. Sunday is the Lords’ Day. In North Africa of the fourth century it was a crime punishable by death to gather on Sundays for Eucharist- but that did not stop these early Christians who believed they could not live without the Eucharist. They were martyred, because their faith was so very precious to them. They believed that in the Sacrifice of the Altar they were made one with Christ Himself. I wonder about our meager response today; often times we come to Mass as a chore rather than a privilege.
Canon law defines a parish as a “definite community of the Christian faithful entrusted to a pastor.” My hope and prayer for this community is that you the faithful, entrusted to Father Elie as your pastor, may continue to witness to Christ, Whom you celebrate at this Altar. May this same Christ continue to dwell not only in your Tabernacle and in the Mysteries of your Church, but in your hearts, in the eyes of your children, at the tables of your families, in the memories of your elders, in your places of business and work, in your neighborhoods, and in your welcome and hospitality.
May you continue to give vocations to the priesthood and religious life from your families, and may they grow in holiness. May the Mother of God, along with her grandparents Sts Ann and Joachim and all the Saints, continue to draw you closer to Christ and to one another, so that in the “Communion of Saints” and by means of the “Forgiveness of Sins”, especially through the hand of the priest that absolves us in the Sacrament of Penance, your holiness may continue to shine and your way of life give glory to God. Amen.
+Gregory J. Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)