2.15.2019

The Sundays of Commemoration

Commemorations in the Maronite Liturgical Year 

There are three Sundays of commemorations which are celebrated at the end of the Season of the Glorious Epiphany: for Deceased Priests, for the Righteous and Just (All Saints), and for the Faithful Departed (All souls). 

These commemorations of the Departed are to be seen in the context of the Epiphany emphasis on the charismational mission of all Christians, and on the destiny of those faithful to their baptismal calling. Those who have died to this life are on the next stage of their journey to the Kingdom. If they have died faithful to the Gospel commandment to love, they will one day be called to the Eternal Light by Christ, the “True Hope who never fails’.” 

(The above excerpts are from “Captivated By Your Teachings: A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics” by Rev. Anthony J. Salim)

In the Maronite Church, this coming Sunday, February 17, is the Sunday of the Righteous and Just. This is actually the traditional Maronite feast in honor of all saints. Whereas the Latin Church celebrates the feast of All Saints on November 1st, the Maronite Church, following its ancient tradition dedicates this Sunday to their memory. 

On this day we call to mind all the men and women, children of the Church, who have followed the path of justice and righteousness. We remember the prophets, apostles and martyrs, the hermits, ascetics, men and women religious, as well as all Christians who have led holy lives. As our liturgy so often reminds us, they are Just in the sight of God because they have patterned their lives on Jesus Christ, the Just One. The saints are our models; their prayers and fasting have taught us to fight against sin and temptation and so gain the reward of righteousness. The saints are our intercessors; by their prayers we obtain the pardon of our sins and are strengthened in the Christian virtues. They were the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they call us to follow their path. Through their intercession may we one day merit eternal life with God. 

(From Prayer of the Faithful According to the Maronite Liturgical Year)

2.08.2019

The Thirst of the Samaritan Woman


 Homily by Fr. Herbert Nicholls at the Mother of Light Convent on February 4, 2019.

Today there are growing concerns over the availability of fresh water, as the earth’s supply seems to be decreasing for any number of reasons. Water is one of the most basic necessities of life, so it seems natural that Jesus would use water to indicate entry into Christian life and grace.

It is noon, it is hot, it is a desert (cf. Jn 4: 1 – 26). Jesus was able to survive 40 days without food, but you can’t survive long without water. His simple request to the Samaritan woman opens up an honest, but delicate dialogue, which challengers the social norms of that time.

But He chose to reach out to her in order to open up the wellspring of her heart. Jesus knew all about her, her bad points, as well as her good. Certainly she must have been very nervous and reluctant to pursue any further conversation. But Jesus reached out to welcome her, enabling a conversation which broke down the barriers between genders and races. A conversation which leads to the discovery of some of the most basic truths. 

Why is it necessary to go to the Temple (or to Church) to worship? I can worship God anywhere. Jesus answers: ‘True worship is not found in a physical place. True worship comes from an inner spirit.’

This woman who had come searching for water to drink from the well now searches for the living water of which Jesus was speaking. Do we also thirst for that which we believe satisfies our deepest thirsts? Is that thirst for the One who created and saved us?

This woman, perhaps still a bit uncertain of what will come out of the mouth of this Rabbi asks: ‘Are you a prophet? They say that there is a Messiah coming, are you the One?’ To which Jesus answered directly and simply: ‘The One speaking to you now, I am He.’

I’m sure many think this Gospel is a long Gospel and an even longer homily, but it is necessary to highlight the process by which misunderstanding and enmity can be transformed into friendship by a willingness to reach out in conversation for a lengthy period of time, longer than a glass of water or a cup of coffee. This transformation requires a willingness to stay with each other even as you stumble over differences. 

The victory of this conversation is revealed in the woman’s impetus to ‘leave behind her water jar’, the symbol of all that she had formerly felt important and dependent. Now in the value of receiving love and acceptance she makes no effort to retrieve it.

Jesus had given her a love that would fill her and change her. He gave her a new source of life. This was the ultimate gift for the woman and for us. And the ultimate value was to share this faith with her neighbors. 

Surely the town’s people must have been somewhat intrigued, but they did not turn away or insult her, they chose to listen, just as she had chosen to listen to Jesus. In time they went to see and hear for themselves. Based on that encounter and the experience of what they heard, they came to believe for themselves that Jesus truly is the Savior of the world. 

Now, what about you? What have you heard? Has it begun to produce a new thirst in you? What is your water jar? What is in it that weighs you down? What is so important that you cannot part with it? Listen to Jesus! He is offering you living water that brings you closer to Him! I pray that you will be able to drink!   

2.01.2019

World Youth Day Panama 2019: Fiat & Encounter


 by Sr. Therese Maria Touma, MSCL

“You, dear young people, are not the future 
but the now of God.”
— Pope Francis at WYD Closing Mass

On the flight back to Boston after a memorable week at World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama, I was recalling some of the special graces, encounters and transformations that took place in my heart and in the group of Maronite young adults I travelled with. WYD is a powerful reminder that we as “pilgrims” are all on a journey together to heaven. We each have a unique story to share. It was inspiring to see each person, with their diverse backgrounds and culture, celebrating their faith and being open to the other.

Our MYA group from the USA included young adults from across the country. 
The WYD theme centered on Mary’s fiat, “I am the Servant of the Lord let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) As Mary said, “yes” to being the Mother of God, she was able to encounter and carry our Lord for nine months in her pure womb. In our personal “yes” to this WYD pilgrimage, we were making room in our lives to intimately encounter the goodness and beauty of Jesus in the Catholic Church: in each person, in the sacraments, catechesis, joyful fellowship, Liturgies, papal events, praise and worship, and in the bond of love we share. 

One of those precious “God moment” encounters for me was on our flight to Panama where I met a young pilgrim from Paris, Marie-Caroline, who was paralyzed and sitting in her electronic wheel chair as a result of her rare and debilitating disease. Despite her numerous health setbacks and dependency on others to eat, shower, work and travel to WYD, she exuded tremendous joy and a vibrant passion for the gift of life. Her calm presence and confidence in God’s love and providence in her life was a powerful testimony, which moved my heart to gratitude. In listening to her story of love, courage and struggle, I encountered the merciful face of Jesus. 

The graces of WYD are still being unpacked. During our pilgrimage there were so many opportunities to be connected with other pilgrims (and Maronites!) from across the world; to pray for and be in solidarity with those suffering especially during the Way of the Cross, to be nourished with the Word of God and the Eucharist; to be cleansed and renewed in the gift of confession; and to be spiritually fed especially in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and in unity with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, during the Vigil and Closing Mass. 
A view of the Opening Mass. 

There were a variety of awesome speakers and Bishops that came to Panama from across the globe to speak to the energetic youth. In the Catechesis sessions, two Bishops that spoke to my heart were Bishop Robert Barron and Bishop Edward Burns from the USA. In particular, I appreciated how Bishop Barron was encouraging us to allow Jesus into our “boats” (our hearts and lives) in order take us deeper, and not to just stay in the shallow. He invited us to dive into the deep like Mary, who trusted and said, “yes” to God’s will. 

The two ideas that I took from Bishop Burns were not to give up on Jesus because of Judas (this was in relation to the scandals the Church is facing), and the importance of silence and listening in trying to prayerfully understand and discern the Lord’s will. The proper disposition for a disciple should be “speak Lord, for your servant is listening” and not “listen Lord, for your servant is speaking.”
Joining with our Australian Maronites for Divine Liturgy.

It was a tremendous blessing for me to be part of this Panama WYD and to see our Maronite group from the USA bond so beautifully. My prayer is that we can keep this fire of love burning, and strive to be open to God’s will in each moment, by faithfully renewing our “yes” to him, in order for our lives to bear fruit like Mary. “I am the Servant of the Lord!” May our “yes” lead us to encounter and share the Hidden One with all those we meet along the way. 

The next WYD will be in Lisbon Portugal in January 2022. Who is in?

1.25.2019

Lost with a Pro-Life Purpose

With Bishop Gregory and Hanna at the March.
By Sister Marla Marie Lucas


     It was late afternoon and the day before the March for Life 2019 in Washington DC. I was planning on attending the vigil Liturgy that evening at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This Liturgy is awesome with priests, seminarians, religious, and laity from all over the country praying for the pro-life cause.

Instead, I found myself far from the Basilica. I had met up in DC with a friend who was bringing a bus of  youth from her parish in Florida and they were going to drop me off on route to their evening destination. However, the bus driver was not very good with directions and ended up in opposite direction. He finally pulled the bus over in a plaza so that the teens could get a bite to eat before continuing on to their pro-life youth rally in Virginia. At this point I decided to look for a metro and make my way back to where I was staying because it was too late to return to the Basilica.

“Well Lord, this must be your plan for me tonight,” thinking to myself as I disappointingly walked down the dark street with snow blowing around me.  It was only when I reached the subway platform and looked at the map, that I realized the location -- Largo Maryland and the last stop on that line of the metro. How did we ever get here!?

There was only one other person waiting, a young woman in her late 20s. We boarded the empty metro together. I greeted her and asked if she knew the best way for me to get to my destination. After studying the metro map, she advised me to stay on the train and I should be where I needed to go in about 40 minutes.

I asked what brought her out this evening guessing she was on her way to work a night shift in downtown DC. The young woman replied that she had a very rough week and was going in to meet a friend. She repeated again putting your head down, “I’ve had such an awful month. It has been so rough.”

“Is there anything I can pray about for you,” I asked. Her eyes welled up with tears and she began to tell her story. She shared how her boyfriend of nine years had just walked out, even after finding out that she was pregnant with his child. She mentioned that her grandfather, a Baptist Minister, had advised her many times over those years to get married. She lamented that God had given up on her because everything seemed to be going wrong. 

We had quite a conversation and I assured her that God is truly looking out for her. Then I asked her about her pre-born baby and again she cried. Just the week before she went for an abortion and justified it saying, “I just couldn’t have a child at this time, I have another young child at home and I’m doing this all alone.”

“God is truly looking out for you!” I said, explaining how he put me here on this train to speak his word of love and mercy to her. “I was supposed to be an hour away from here in the opposite direction at church praying for pro-life. Somehow, I ended up in Largo. It was God’s plan to tell you how much he loves you and wants you to come back to him.”

I invited her to pray with me. We bowed our heads and I called on God the Father, asking his love and mercy for this young woman, and asked her to confess to the Lord and rely on him as her rock. We offered the Our Father and as we both said “amen”, the train pulled into her stop. 

My new friend jumped up, gave me a huge hug,  and kept saying that God had truly sent me to her. She smiled through tears of joy, “I will remember what you said to me. Thank you, thank you!”

Our Maronite faithful at the March for Life 2019
I may have missed the pro-life Mass that evening, but I was carrying out the pro-life mission.  The rest of my ride was a prayer of thanksgiving to God who always has a purpose even if we think we are lost.