Homily of Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Feast of the Assumption
15 August 2018
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
“Whoever has love will wonder at Mary, the Mother of God.” – St Ephrem
1. Our Heavenly Father has prepared a very great joy for us, and when we open our hearts, we can receive it. He sent His Son to redeem us by teaching us how to love God and to love our neighbour and to nourish us through His sacraments, especially the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He also sends His Holy Spirit to sanctify our life and to enable us to become children of God.
2. But the great joy which God has prepared for us, and to which I am referring now, is something else: it is the privilege and the honour done to us when He saw His Holy Mother standing at the foot of the Cross with the beloved disciple. He said to Mary: “Woman, behold, your son!”, and to His disciple: “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27) In this way, Mary welcomed to her Motherly care all those who believe in Her Son Jesus Christ, in the person of the Apostle John.
3. At the same time, Our Lord has told all of us who are His disciples to look to Mary and to see in her our mother. This is why, contemplating the mystery of Our Lady, St Ephrem said that: “Whoever has love will wonder at Mary.” It is when we can behold her with love, when we take our hearts to her, that we are able to call her our mother, and ourselves her children. Our Lady is always yearning to receive us as her children. She is always watching for us, always waiting for us to come to her, to take those steps to her, to imitate her example, to pray for her intercession. She will always tell us “do whatever Jesus is telling you, you will reach happiness and real joy”.
4. It is fitting to recall this as we prepare for a Synod in Rome on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. We entrust the success of this synodto Our Lady praying with Pope Francis saying:Mother Mary, we ask you to help all of us, pastors of God’s people, political leaders, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal.
5. Let us look at this more closely, for truly Mary is the Mother of our Youth, and they are her children. They shall come to her when they feel a need and her love will be the answer. They shall come to her when they realise the value of her humility, the greatness of her lowliness which led the Father to look upon her with favour. It is this humility which makes us see that to achieve holiness in our actions, our thoughts and our words, we need more than we can bring ourselves. We must open our eyes to see that we need divine help: the grace of God and the example of His Mother and the Saints.
6. We must open our eyes to see that no purely human values can build a new world of justice and unity, because everything human is limited and changing, always changing. The only unchanging truth is the one coming out from the words of the Lord in the Holy Gospel.
7. This is the fifth year that I celebrate the feast of the Assumption as the Shepherd of this beloved Eparchy. I am very grateful to the Lord for all the children of the Maronite community who do not only live the faith but promote it and teach it to the new generations of Maronites in order to preserve the spiritual traditions and values of our Maronite heritage.
8. A major event in the life of our Eparchy this year was the arrival of the relics of St Maroun to our land Australia. I am pleased to tell you that I accompanied the relics last week to visit our Maronite community in Victoria, who welcomed this spiritual treasure with a lot of devotion and sometimes with tears. This is not only a historic event but also a spiritual event helping us all to better connect with our history and sacred heritage. It is very relevant for our youth to see in St Marounan example for their life and faith in God.
9. Another major event in the life of our Eparchy is the first Maronite Diocesan Assembly. The main session was held from the 12 to the 14th of April here in the community centre next to this Church. I am very grateful to all those who participated and worked hard for the success of the Assembly in order to forge a vision for the future. We are now in the process of finalising the relevant outcomes. The recommendations will be announced on the 9th of February 2019, on the Feast of St Maroun. We entrust our Maronite Diocesan Assembly to Mary the Mother of God, through her, we surely find God in our midst.
10. Another event over the last months was the release of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Our Maronite Church welcomed most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission and we are keen to provide in our Churches the best practice for the safeguarding of the children entrusted to our care. This brings me to the sensitive topic of the conflict between religious freedoms in this country with one of the recommendations of the final report which suggests forcing priests to break the seal of the confessional in certain circumstances. Let me assure you that the priests and the Bishop in our Eparchy are committed to mandatory reporting; however,we reaffirm that the seal of confession will not be broken in any circumstances.
11. And You may ask why,there are many reasons for this position. First, laws such as those that compel priests to betray the confidence entrusted in them will never succeed, because the priest merely stands as a conduit between the penitent and God. He is merely privileged to be allowed to serve God in this way. Secondly, the history of the Church is replete with examples of priests who went to their death rather than break this sacred seal, such as St John Nepomucene of Czech Republic. Thirdly, the only effect of such laws will be to stop the offenders from approaching for reconciliation. Who will this benefit? In my view, No one!
12. I am grateful that in this State of New South Wales, the headstrong impulse to pass such legislation has been rejected. This is indeed a blessing, and we are grateful to the Government and the Premier of NSW, Ms Gladys Berejeklian, who is with us tonight sharing this celebration for the first time. Thank you Mme Premier for your presence, your remarkable Leadership to our state, and for showing support to our Maronite community.
13. Dearly Beloved, From Mary, we mainly learn how to care for others. The establishment of MaroniteCare in our Eparchy aims to provide social services and humanitarian help to all sorts of people, especially young people, victims of drugs, addictions or narcotics, gambling andother social problems. This kind of support and care will work better in partnership with the government, because our youth are in great need of guidance and counselling. It is the only way to build a better society when we give our youth a priority in our system.
14. Our care is not limited to our youth but it is also for our elderly. Last year, I had the pleasure to announce that we received the initial approval for the construction of Our Lady Aged Care Centre. Tonight, I am pleased to inform you that the construction has started and I am looking forward to the opening of this much needed centre for our elderly by the beginning of 2020.
Before I conclude allow me to say few words in Lebanese:
15. Brothers and Sisters,
Chosen by God as the purest vessel in which to “come and dwell” among men, Mary, at the end of her earthly existence, was immediately taken up into heaven. Mary, glorified in her body, appears today as the Morning Star of hope for humanity and for our Church. “Her sublime exaltation does not distance her from us or from her people or from the world’s problems, on the contrary, it enables her to watch effectively over each one of us and over human affairs with that attentive concern with which she obtained the first miracle from Jesus at the wedding in Cana.”
16. I wish you all a happy feast of the Assumption and may our earthly pilgrimage always follow the shining path of Our Lady of the Assumption! In giving us Jesus, she was placed where everyone could see her as the “Morning Star” guiding us to safety. If we fix our gaze on her, and follow her lead, we will never be lost. Amen.