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.  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 François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
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
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.
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.
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.”