Homily delivered by
His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
For the Feast of St Maroun
St Maroun’s Cathedral, Redfern
9 February 2019
The Honourable Ray Williams, Minister for Multiculturalism and for Disability Services, representing the Honourable Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW,
Your Excellency the Consul General of Lebanon in NSW, Mr Charbel Macaron and Mrs Macaron,
My brother Bishops:
* His Excellency Robert Rabbat, Melkite Bishop of Australia & New Zealand,
* His Excellency Amel Shamon Nona, Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Australia,
* His Excellency Hanna Rahme, Maronite Bishop of Baalbek- Deir el Ahmar,
* Most Reverend Metropolite Basilios Kodseie, Primate of Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Dependencies,
* His Grace Bishop Anba Daniel, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Australia,
* Very Rev Fr Peter Williams, representing Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen, Bishop of Parramatta,
Reverend Monsignors, Fathers, Members of the Clergy and Religious Sisters,
Honourable Ministers and Members of Parliament,
Lord Mayors and Councillors,
Presidents of our Australian Lebanese Political parties and Associations,
Representatives of the media and Tele Lumiere Noursat,
Representatives of Maronite councils and organisations of our Eparchy,
1. The annual feast of our father, St Maroun, is an occasion to return to our spiritual roots and an opportunity to renew our faith in God, and in the Holy Church as a mother and teacher, Mater et Magistra, as Pope John XXIII says.
2. The Maronite Church was born from the faith and the Monastic spirituality of St Maroun, who was a monk, a priest and a hermit. This Antiochean and monastic spirituality involves a life journey of prayer and meditation, sacrifice and repentance. It aims to sanctify the soul and the body.
3. This spiritual tradition was lived by St Maroun, and by his followers, who were monks, nuns and laity. It still forms the cornerstone of our Maronite Church, and makes the Maronites ready at any time to give up their life in defence of the true faith in Jesus Christ.
4. And we are willing to make the supreme sacrifice for God and for the Kingdom of Heaven, because as the Lord said in the tonight’s Gospel: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12: 24-26)
5. This is a glorification of eternal life, not of death. It is a statement of trust that God will keep his promises. It is also a sign that there is in us a spirit at work. For the sake of God and His truth, we strive to make this world a better place, and so we spread the faith as best we can.
6. In faith, we celebrate the Feast of St Maroun, the patron saint of our Maronite Church and of this our Eparchy in Australia. And we do so
here, at the cathedral of the first Maronite Parish in Australia, St Maroun’s, Redfern.
7. Two years ago, our Maronite Church here in Australia started the journey of the first Maronite Diocesan Assembly. The theme for this journey was: “strong in faith, growing in love”.
8. Today, I am very pleased to commence the third and final stage of this Assembly, by announcing the recommendations and moving together to work on the implementation of these recommendations in our parishes, making sure that the Church is our spiritual home: past, present and future.
9. These recommendations fall under seven headings, which I am quickly summarising now:
The first recommendation is about evangelisation and discipleship in parish life. This work starts by having an active parish pastoral council in every parish.
The second recommendation addresses the Maronite family life, and recommended the opening of a family office in our diocese – a family office was established last year for that purpose.
The third recommendation was to further develop our social and human services – in the parishes and the level of the diocese. We are working on this aspect through MaroniteCare, WhiteStone, our aged care facilities and charities.
The fourth recommendation was dedicated to the Maronite identity and mission. It is important to raise awareness especially among the new generation of Maronites about our identity and who we are. We are a
Syro-Maronite, Antiochian, Catholic, Monastic Church with a special devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.
The fifth recommendation was about our young people. The youth are the beating heart of the Church and the need was obvious to have a youth office in our diocese – established since October 2018.
The sixth recommendation was about governance in our parishes and in our Church. A review should take place to further enhance accountability and transparency.
The seventh and the last recommendation was about liturgy and spirituality. It is our responsibility as Maronite community in Australia to preserve our liturgical tradition and spiritual heritage.
10. The Assembly also recommended raising awareness about our Maronite spirituality which flows and streams from the word of God, the life of saints and the liturgy of the Church. Therefore I am pleased to announce as the Year of Maronite Spirituality, the twelve months commencing from the Feast of St Maroun, and lasting until the feast of St Maroun on the 9th of February 2020. Our Eparchy will celebrate this Year of Spirituality under the motto: A journey towards holiness in today’s world.
11. The Assembly has been a journey that has evolved and developed over time in three phases: preparation, listening and implementation. Now we reach the implementation stage. I am looking forward to collaborating with all of you and moving forward; to make sure that our Maronite growth here in Australia is first and foremost a growth in our spirituality and mission.
12. I am also pleased to share with you the good news that in response to the Assembly’s recommendation that we use more technology for evangelisation and to promote and maintain our faith and spirituality.
We are preparing an app, iMaronite, that will be ready soon to download on your smart phones, to help you all be more connected to your Church life and activities.
13. And tonight, I am also pleased to announce the re-opening of the Maronite Heritage Centre here at St Maroun’s Cathedral. With displays focusing on Maronite history, liturgy, sacred art, spirituality and other items illustrating our Maronite identity and heritage. I encourage you to visit it tonight after the Mass and every time you have the opportunity.
14. At the wider level of the Catholic Church in Australia, one important event is the Plenary Council. We are called to share the journey towards the Plenary Council to be held next year, in 2020. As we approach this Council, and of course at the Council itself, we pray that we may hear the voice and direction of the Holy Spirit.
15. Finally, it is our belief in, love for, and adoration of God which makes us Maronites. Our history has been written by the witness of our saints and the blood of our Martyrs. We therefore have a very high, very honourable responsibility to live up to. It is a journey together towards sanctity and holiness in today’s world. Our life as the Maronite Church here in Australia is a chapter in the history of the Maronite Community worldwide, worth understanding and promoting, in order to enrich the diversity in the Australian society with our story, values, spirituality and oriental traditions.
Allow me now to conclude by saying few words in Lebanese: