3.25.2016

From Spiritual Child to a Spiritual Adult

Today we gather as one Church, young and old to remember Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. As the crowds welcomed Jesus then, we also welcome Him today and shout: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
 
It is important for us to ask ourselves why we are singing “Hosanna” and how we are welcoming God into our lives. Before we ask how we are welcoming God, we need to first ask how God has welcomed us into the world.
 
Our relationship with God is very much like the relationship that parents have with their children. When a child is born, the parents and the whole family are excited. They wish they can see the child even while he/she is in the womb. They try to speak with the child and it is so exciting when the child moves or responds in any way.
 
Why do they do this? Because they want a relationship with the child as soon as possible and eagerly await his/her arrival.
 
God is very much like that as well with us. We read in Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Therefore the excitement that we feel when we know that a child is to be born is similar to the excitement that God felt towards us while we were in our mother’s womb and even before.
 
There was never a time when God ‘started’ loving us because there has never been a time when God has not loved us.
 
Our relationship with God is also like the relationship between parents and their children after a child is born. When a child is born, the first thing people say is “Wow. His ears and nose look like his father’s and his cheeks and eyes look like his mother’s.” Then of course the arguments begin: “No, those are definitely my eyes, no those are definitely my cheeks and so on.”
 
Why do parents do that? Because they want to see themselves in their children and are proud of even the smallest resemblance.
 
Does God do something similar? God sees His image in us because God created us according to His image. We read in Genesis 1:27. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God is not only interested in whether our nose, eyes, or ears look like His, God created all of us to look and be like Him.
 
As parents take great joy in feeding their children so too does God same when He provides us with everything we need. We read in Genesis 1:29-20. “God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. [30] And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’”
 
Yes God gives us abundantly, but as we grow God also wants us to give as well. There is a point in a child’s life when he/she stops taking and begins to give. We call this maturity. Some children mature earlier than others and begin to show gratitude for what their parents have given them, while others seem to grow old feeling that their parents did not give them enough and that the world owes them something.
 
In our spiritual life, we begin to mature when we are grateful for the gifts and blessings that God has given us. We then move to an even higher level of spiritual maturity when we ask ourselves how we can use those gifts to serve others?
 
Children bring hope while they are in the womb, children are adorable even when they are doing nothing other than eating and sleeping, and children are a blessing even when they are spending their parents’ hard earned money and somehow convince their parents that they are obliged to pay for all their expenses. However if this relationship stays at this level then it is not a healthy and mature relationship.
 
Today as we gather for Palm Sunday, as we gather as a Church of young and old, as we gather to receive communion, and as we gather to walk in procession and shout: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” our challenge is to ask ourselves where we are with our relationship with God. Where are we in these different stages of growth? Are we still at the level of taking like children do or are we at a more mature level of giving?
 
God knows us, God loves us, and God serves us unconditionally. God has been inviting us to a real relationship with Him even before we were conceived. While in our mother’s womb, He nourished us and since we were born He has been providing for us.
 
Saint Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” God has been exceptionally generous in His relationship with us, but where are we in that relationship with Him? Are we still spiritually like the child in the womb who does not know where he is, where he came from or where he is going? Are we like the newborn child who simply accepts food and shelter from his/her joyful and innocent parents? Or are we mature adults in our faith who have taken gratefully but also give generously of our time to God and others?
 
During our prayers today, especially as we receive communion, spend time in prayer, begin our procession, and prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus, let us ask sing “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” and also remember these stages in our relationship with God. Say a prayer today to welcome God into your life and commit today to grow closer to Him.
 
I would like to return to Jeremiah’s verse: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
 
This verse contains the three important aspects in our spiritual maturity:
 
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” We need to know that God loved us even before we were conceived in the womb.
 
“Before you were born I consecrated you.” We need to know that while we were in our mother’s womb God had a special plan for us.
 
“I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” We need to know that after we were born God invited us to love Him and serve each other in a variety of ways through the gifts and talents He gave us.
 
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and not on a horse. When someone rides on a horse he is demonstrating that he has power. While someone who is riding on a donkey shows that he is ready to serve. You parade a horse and you put a donkey to work. Jesus comes riding on a donkey to show that He is always ready to serve us.
 
Jesus came to serve us and invite us into a greater relationship with Him. Yes: “Hosanna!” and an even greater “yes,” because we when we move from spiritual children to spiritual adults we are truly blessed because we have matured spiritually and discovered what it means to serve in the name of the Lord.
 
Excerpt from: Father Fran├žois Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA     92870-4537
Church: 714-985-1710

3.24.2016

Our Lady of Lebanon - Norman Oklahoma

We had a blessed visit to Our Lady of Lebanon, Norman Oklahoma.  Our spiritual presentations for children and adults were well received and blessed us with new Maronite friends.  Our prayers are with you Abouna George Saab and  parishioners.  Thank you for welcoming us.   had a blessed visit to Our Lady of Lebanon, Norman Oklahoma.  Our spiritual presentations for children and adults were well received and blessed us with new Maronite friends.  Our prayers are with you Abouna George Saab and  parishioners.  Thank you for welcoming us.


3.22.2016

“”The Mercy of God.”” Bishop Mansour

Bishop Gregory Mansour Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, Catechesis on “”The Mercy of God.”” Bishop Mansour also addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East at a lecture offered as part of the Diocese of Greensburg’s celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy at Saint Joseph Chapel, Bishop Connare Center, Greensburg, PA. Given on: 3/1/2016
http://wftp.waob.org/home/download/639? email=3&token=5523180610ae18bf28c3abbdbb7e588056d7096fc90de


3.18.2016

Mercy Mission-Pleasantville, NJ

By Sister Therese Maria Touma
During weekend of March 11-13th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were on mission at our Lady Star of the East in Pleasantville, New Jersey. We were invited by pastor, Reverend Kamil Al-Chouefete to give a parish-wide retreat on Mercy. On Friday evening we joined the parish in praying the Way of Cross and Benediction of the Cross, and offered meditations we edited from Patriarch Rai's reflections.
The weekend included a children’s retreat from 9AM to noon on Saturday, then visits to the sick and home bound. In the evening, Mother Marla Marie spoke on vocations and the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light mission at the Divine Liturgy.  Later in the evening, we guided the parish in Eucharistic adoration and healing service, which included confession. We also had an interactive evening and sharing with the MYO on mercy and forgiveness in our lives.
On Sunday, we offered the mothers a presentation on how to keep children in the faith. Afterwards, these women requested to make a retreat at our convent for extended time to pray with us.

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend with the beautiful parish family of Our Lady Star of the East. We thank Abouna Kamil and the parishioners for their warm hospitality, support and goodness in welcoming us and responding so positively to our mission. We look forward to being with them again in the near future.

3.11.2016

Parish Retreat in Brockton

On Saturday, March 5th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light offered a Lenten Retreat for the Maronite Parish of St. Theresa’s in Brockton, MA.
The theme of the Retreat was “God’s great love on the Cross”. The Retreat had three tracks offered simultaneously. Mother Marla Marie facilitated the adults, Sr. Therese Maria was with the MYO; and Sr. Natalie Sayde and Petra were with the children.  During the afternoon, all three groups re-joined in the Church for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration and confession with Fr. Tony Mouanes, pastor.  The Retreat concluded with the Saturday Vigil Liturgy on the Healing of the Paralytic.

We extend our thanks to Fr. Tony Mouanes for inviting us to offer this Lenten Retreat and to all those who attended.

3.10.2016

Report Showing Irrefutable Evidence of Genocide Against Christians by ISIS

IDC and Knights of Columbus Release Historic Report Showing Irrefutable Evidence of Genocide Against Christians by ISIS

Washington, D.C.--In Defense of Christians (IDC) and the Knights of Columbus released an extensive report this morning chronicling the genocide of Christians in territories controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS) and its affiliates.

The nearly 300-page report, “Genocide against Christians in the Middle East”, resulted from a State Department request for specific evidence related to crimes committed against Christians by ISIS. Submitted to Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday, the report was compiled from evidence of a recent fact finding mission to Iraq, which documented the murder, injury, enslavement and displacement that Christians have suffered at the hands of ISIS.

The announcement of the report’s release was made at a packed National Press Club conference and included a panel of representatives from IDC, the Knights of Columbus and other esteemed scholars and activists as well as Christian clergy from United Kingdom and Iraq.

Ahead of the press conference IDC’s President Toufic Baaklini said, “A genocide designation by the United States cannot wait any longer. The atrocities that commenced nearly two years ago have been broadcast to the world, and the United States still stands silent as the international community and the American people continue to raise their voice. To date nearly 65,000 Americans including a number of high-profile public figures have signed the ‘Stop the Christian Genocide’ petition launched by IDC and the Knights of Columbus.” Baaklini continued that “It is time for the United States join the rest of the world by naming the genocide and by taking action against it as required by law.” Read Baaklini’s full statement here.

The panelists also urged President Obama and Secretary Kerry to officially designate the crimes being committed by ISIS against Christians as genocide. So far, the administration and State have been resistant to do so, said Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. “Some State Department officials seem to believe that Christians within ISIS territory are being respected as people of ‘the Book’,” stated Shea.

As the report demonstrates, ISIS adheres to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and believes that Christians don’t qualify for the historic protection offered by Islamic law. The notion that Christians are being given the option to pay the jizya tax is ISIS propaganda. Christians cannot pay a tax when everything they have has been taken by ISIS or when the price is extortionately high, sometimes up to and including one’s own children, as Johnnie Moore, author of ‘Defying ISIS,’ described. It is used by ISIS as a license to rape, enslave, and pillage.

Shea further stated, “At the same time the Secretary of State’s staff has contacted our organization and asked for a deal on word-smithing, asking if it would be possible to designate ISIS’ actions as ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity rather than genocide.”

The panelists decried such word-smithing, vehemently reiterating that genocide is happening and the importance of using the ‘g-word’. They also pointed to evidence in the report, which includes the names of the more than 1130 Christians that have been murdered in Iraq from 2003 through June 2014.

“The report has unearthed many stories that the world has not heard,” Baaklini said in his statement announcing the release. “Like the story of Christian women who have been forced into sexual slavery and listed on ISIS slave menus that put a price on ‘Christian or Yazidi’ women by age.” Baaklini continued, “Stories of women like Claudia, who was captured and raped several times after ISIS militants spotted her tattoo of a cross. Or like Khalia who fought ISIS militants off as they tried to rape captive girls and take a nine year old as a bride.”

Panelists who have recently visited the region described wholescale and systemic elimination of Christian practice as well as the genocidal crimes they witnessed.
“I went to Iraq three weeks ago and met a three-year-old girl whom ISIS members had thrown against a wall. She can no longer talk. Where was her father? He had been murdered as he was a Christian,” stated Juliana Taimoorazy, an Assyrian Christian and president of Iraqi Christian Relief Council.

“At the same time I am witnessing the complete elimination of my nation, the Assyrian nation which is over 7000 years old, one of the first nations to convert to Christianity over 2000 years ago, though the ministry of St. Thomas the apostle. My language, Aramaic, the language of Jesus will be erased and no longer heard.” Shea affirmed Taimoorazy’s description of the crisis.  “There are no open churches, priests or clergy in ISIS territory and no right to practice,” Shea stated. And Father Dankha, a priest from Erbil, said that if the “United States waits any longer to designate the genocide none of my people will be left.”

Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church held up the report showing the audience the cover photo of the 21 Coptic Christian men who were beheaded by ISIS in Libya, lamenting the loss of his fellow believers, and said that “if we exclude Christians from the genocide designation we risk putting them at greater risk.”

Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and former president of the International Association for Genocide Scholars, reiterated that ISIS’ actions must be identified as genocide, not only because it is true but also because of the impact of the word itself.  “The word ‘genocide’ packs moral force and requires action from our government, which seems unwilling to truly confront ISIS,” said Stanton.  He continued “We refused to use the word in Rwanda and it resulted in 800,000 victims of genocide. Yet when we used the word with regards to Kosovo and Bosnia, swift international action followed, which ended the killing.”

Professor Robert Destro supported Stanton’s position. “What we have is genocide denial,” said Destro. “It happened in the 1930s, it happened in Cambodia, in Darfur and Rwanda. How long will it take for genocide to be declared in this case?”
 
Panelists included Bishop Anba Angaelos of theCoptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom; Father Douglas al-Bazi, former hostage, now a priest at Mar Elia Refugee Camp in Erbil, Iraq;  Prof. Bob Destro, Senior Law and Policy Advisor, In Defense of Christians; Johnnie Moore, Author of ‘Defying ISIS’ ; Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom; Prof. Gregory Stanton, Founding President, Genocide Watch; Juliana Taimoorazy, Founder and President, Iraqi Christian Relief Council; and Rev. Dankha Joola of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, Iraq.

3.04.2016

First Penance – Our Lady of Purgatory


On Saturday, February 27, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light had the great joy of celebrating the Mystery of Penance with the children participating in our Catechesis program at Our Lady of Purgatory, New Bedford. These children will be making their First Holy Communion on Sunday, May 1st, the Feast of Our Lady of Lebanon.  Father Fadi Rouhana, parish administrator, offered the Mystery of Penance, and Sr. Therese Maria, catechist, prepared the children. 


It is most fitting during this Jubilee Year of Mercy to experience the outpouring of the Father’s tender love and mercy in the Mystery of Penance.   Pope Francis urges us, “Go…..And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests - Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession… When I go to confession, it’s for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell.”