You Cannot Serve Two Masters - Hypocrisy

You Cannot Serve Two Masters  - Hypocrisy
The following homily was given by Fr. Nichols at the Mother of Light Convent on Thursday, May 31st, 2018.
Yesterday we concluded our reflection on the First Reading from Acts with some startling promises to the Apostles and disciples of all ages. It was in answer to their prayer for strength to face intimidation and persecution. In today’s reading we find still more startling evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Ananias sold some property, and laid the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles for the common treasury. Now, no one was obligated to sell property of to give all or even part of it. Unlike earlier in Acts, it was common practice, it had already become a free will offering.
But Ananias decided to disguise his greed under the guise of charity. He in effect chose to deceive
the community and God. This is why Peter says to him: Satan has entered your heart – the same words which Jesus had addressed to Judas for the misuse of money. Peter continues: But in so doing you have lied not to men but to God. How is it that you have agreed to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?
The scenario is repeated with Sapphira, his wife. When she repeats the same lie, she suffers the same consequences. With regard to this incident, St. Ephrem the Syriac says: It was not merely because they stole something and concealed it, but because they did not fear God and sought to deceive those in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt, the Spirit who knows everything. By this hypocritical attitude Ananias and Sapphira demonstrate their greed and vainglory. The punishment they receive befits the circumstances. The Church is in a foundational period where disciples have a special responsibility to be faithful and God will be equally supportive.
St. John Chrysostom wrote: This fault could not have been treated lightly, but like gangrene, it had to be cut out before it infected the rest of the body. The deceiving couple themselves are not left to advance further in wickedness, and the good disciples are placed in “vigilance”.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that this episode shows how much God detests hypocrisy; and from it we can appreciate the value of truthfulness. Only a truthful person, a faithful person can keep the Lord’s commandments. 
Bringing us back to yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus says: If you keep my commandments, you are my friends. Jesus spoke on the value of loyalty. Today he speaks on the comparison between Him and the world. In other places Jesus speaks of the world as good, for all creation is good, it is the abuse of creation that brings problems. 
It is the abuse, the greed, the lust, the gluttony of created things that create tensions as they did for Ananias and Sapphira. St Gregory wrote: No one can be pleasing to God and to God’s enemy at the same time. You cannot serve two masters. You will love one and hate the other. Whoever seeks to please those who oppose God are no friend of God, whoever submits himself to the truth will fight against those who strive against the truth. 
Over these past two days, we have seen some marvelous displays of power by the Holy Spirit. Some of these gifts remain while others as St. Ephrem explained were for the foundation of the nascent Church. We might only wonder if the Holy Spirit denounced the lie in a person’s heart with instant death, judgment was the immediate response, but repentance is the desired consequence.


Send Forth Your Spirit

Homily by Deacon Jean Mattar, given at Our Lady of Purgatory, New Bedford MA. 
“Pentecost” describes the 50th day after Passover, which was a Feast Day. It was known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of Harvest.
It was on this day, in the Book of Acts, that the Holy Spirit was poured out on 120 Followers of Christ who were gathered in the Upper Room. It was on this day that the Church was born in a Glow of Glory.
As we were taught, God exists in three persons, but we often only hear about two: the Father and the Son. This reminds me of Saint Joseph who at the same time does not get enough credit or mention. Chase Culbertson uses the analogy of football to describe the Trinity: “If you use the example of a sports team to understand God, the Holy Spirit is like the kicker or special teams in football. He is so much more important than we give Him credit for” or like in Baseball is the unsung hero who contributes and orchestrates all the little things to make the team win (never gets the credit).
“God the Father is like the offense: He sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners. God the Son—Jesus—is like the defense: He defeats our enemies and stands up for us in the face of our biggest battles. In Jesus’ battle on the cross, He died for our sins, defeating the power of sin forever”.

We believe in one God, who is three divine Persons:

For us sinful and weak humans, it is very difficult to comprehend how one God could be one in three persons. Since the creator is not a living being like you and me even though He created us in His likeness and image, and so we can never fully understand the fullness of who He is. He has publicized and revealed to us that even there is one God, known as God the Father to us, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Another beautiful analogy is used by St. Patrick to describe the Holy Trinity by illustrating the three-leaf clover. St. Patrick stated: like a clover that is one plant with three leaves, there is one God, but with three Persons.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one God; but each one has their own responsibility and their own mission as the Father is distinct from the Son, who is distinct from the Holy Spirit.
Here what is so important, the Holy Spirit came through the love of the Father and the Son. Why the Holy Spirit is a very important person in the Trinity: At every Divine Liturgy when we pray the Creed, we clearly recite or sing: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”
I remember from the days of my studying to become a deacon, the priest (the instructor at that time) asked us the question if we knew what the word “proceeds” meant in the Creed? He stated (in summary) that the Holy Spirit is the love that exists between the Father and the Son.
If we take a moment and reflect on our own experience as parents, for example, or anyone who possesses the role of a parent understands such a message. A mother and a father fall in love. They have a mutual respect, honesty, faithfulness and love for one another. Due to such characteristics great things are created, born and nourished.
The Holy Spirit is sent forth into our lives to make an impression on us and to be our guide, companion, assistant, and protector.
The Holy Spirit is and will always be with the church to escort and reinforce us through the seven different gifts of the Holy Spiritwhich are given to us freely and mainly are: understanding, wisdom, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. We, the faithful are so lucky and very blessed that God provides us the opportunity to pray to the Holy Spirit, to ask him to bestow upon us these wonderful free gifts, to choose them carefully and practice them diligently as we struggle to live and practice the life you want us to.
At Confirmation, we are blessed to receive the Holy Spirit in a very special and distinguished way. When we receive the Holy Spirit we are confirmed in the church of God, we become stronger and perfect Christians and most importantly the new soldiers of Jesus. In the Maronite church and tradition, the Holy Spirit plays an enormous role that we cannot get to it in seven minutes.
Dear faithful, the Holy Spirit is sent to us by God the Father and His Son to be with our companion, as we the weak and the sinful struggle to resist temptation and to practice virtue, love, and humility. We should be reassured that we can trustthe Holy Spirit to offer His free spiritual gifts we need to persevere, so we can offer our prayers freely by saying “Come, O Holy Spirit!”  And live in our hearts, cleanse our hearts, minds, and lips, but most importantly enable us to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven, and show us the way so we can always and forever glorify the Trinity the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen. 


God’s Unconditional Love In The Precious Present

God’s unconditional love in the precious present and a lesson in Alzheimer’s disease.
By Cecilia M Romero, parishioner St. Joseph Maronite Church, GA.
 “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven “ John 6:51
On the several occasions that I would pay a visit to the Convent Our Mother of the Light in Dartmouth MA, I would experience the precious present of God’s unconditional love with my dear Sisters. Just walking through the imposing front door I would always sense the profound peace in the silence of home the Sister’s share with Our Lord Jesus. Those visits have always been a good time for me to recharge my spiritual batteries as I would reconnect with God through the daily loving fellowship of Divine Liturgy, prayer, Adoration, and silence shared with our Sisters. I also would enjoy community time of meals, walks on the grounds, outings and even helping out in the many tasks during the rhythm of the day. 
 Always a joy to visit my Sisters and so hard to leave and return to Georgia, where I would do my best to keep that same sense of peace and connectedness with God in my own home and daily life. That peace has been a challenge to maintain these past months after hurricane Maria. I currently have living with me several relatives from three to eighty three years of age and, mind you, five generations trying to get along under one small roof is no easy task. 
I am constantly amazed how even as Mami’s Alzheimer’s disease continues to progress, one constant experience we are living with her is the true presence of God’s unconditional love in the precious present. Days and weeks pass, one notices that Mami’s short term memory is slowly fading. No longer can she remember what we take for granted such as: what she ate, did she bathe, what day is it, who called and what medicines are needed for daily survival. Those who have loved ones who suffer from this disease know that when these symptoms appear it is time to step in and take over these tasks. I have long since become Mami’s memory bank. From daily tasks to personal, financial and medical events, I am now in charge, with help of my Aunt Aurea, to care for Mami. Such tasks can at many times become overwhelming as one continues to juggle the challenges of work, family and personal relationships. However, it is Mami’s living the in constant precious present of God’s unconditional love that keeps us in balance. 
The other evening Mami’s sun-downing was intense as she woke me up crying as to why I had not told her about her mother’s death. As I groggily opened my eyes in the middle of the night trying to understand her, I realized she was having a difficult moment. I listened to her patiently as I was being accused of mortal sin for not telling her of the death of her own mother gone almost 40 years ago. It is during these times of darkness that even without asking in a prayer, the Holy Spirit intervenes and in a flash I remembered a true incident in my Mami’s life. 
When my grandmother Mercedes passed away, Mami had intense doubts to know if she was in Heaven. In her grief Mami struggled with this doubt for months as she prayed many rosaries to Our Lady asking for a sign. As all children, she just needed to know her mother’s whereabouts.  After a very long time God answered her prayers.
One night in a dream, Mami’s mother Mercedes came to her dressed in a soft pink flowing dress carrying a large basket full of loaves of bread. Her mother appeared very happy and young. Mami was filled with great joy and asked her mother if she was in Heaven. Her mother responded, Yes. Mami then asked if she could see Father God. To which her mother replied, I can see Him but I am not as close as Adelaida. Then the dream ends. 
I remember the story well as on many family occasions Mami would share it with me and her sisters. My aunts interpreted the dream as a good sign from Heaven. They would comment that grandmother’s carrying the basket of bread meant that even in Heaven she was helping others as she did in her life on earth. They then would spend the rest of the afternoon sharing many stories of my grandmother’s sacrifice for her children and the poor in Yauco, Puerto Rico. “ Mama, Mercedes Santi, is a saint who lived a difficult life of poverty and sharing what little the family had with the poor beggars in town who would come every Saturday to be fed a bowl of rice, beans and boiled eggs”, my aunts would comment. No matter how much housework she had in caring for her husband and seven children, she always made time in the evenings to visit the sick. As the afternoons wore on more and more memories would be shared of my saintly grandmother.   It was in these conversations that we also found out that Adelaida had been a childhood friend of Mercedes. We were happy to know that Mercedes was still helping us from Heaven as she had lived a life a true charity here on earth.  
That night in the darkness of her confused state I began to console my Mami and telling her over and over the dream God had given her a beautiful message assuring her that Mama Mercedes was in Heaven.  That when she thinks of her Mama, she knows Mama Mercedes is praying for her and waiting with joy for all of us in Heaven. This knowledge calmed down Mami as she began to repeat over and over again about her Mama’s charity and love to others. 
It is in these intense moments we are reminded that we are all one body in Christ. A communion of saints in this world and the next helping each other in our pilgrimage to Heaven. Each praying for one another asking God for the graces we need to continue on our journey. As I fell asleep that night I asked my grandmother to continue to pray for us as we journey on in the mission of love caring for Mami. I also thank our Sisters for their continued prayers for my family. 


Save the Date for Our Anniversary Events

Save the Date for Our Anniversary Events 

In the coming months, we will be hosting a few events to include you in the celebration of God’s providence and blessing during these first ten years of the foundation of the Maronite Servants.

Open House on September 8 at the Convent in Dartmouth MA 

Banquet on October 13 at Our Lady of the Cedars, Boston, MA 

Liturgy of Thanksgiving on November 16 at 
St. George, Cranston RI


Maronite Servants Celebrate 10th Anniversary: 2008 - 2018

With Bishop Gregory, March 2018 
Celebrate with us our 10th Anniversary of Foundation of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.  Your can read a beautiful article (click here) recounting the blessings of these past years and God's unfailing providence! Thank you for being a part of this journey bringing the gift of consecrated life in service to our Maronite Church.

June 1, 2008 was on a Sunday, a day that I felt a great joy, peace and anxiety all mixed together.  I was wearing a new style habit from the one I wore for 25 years which felt a bit awkward taking me back to being a novice and putting on a religious habit for the first time.  Also, I was venturing out of a congregation of sisters which were my dear family for over half of my 47 years of life.  This felt somewhat like leaving home for the first time when I moved away to college and a career in my late teens. Yet, I was not alone but confident in the presence of Jesus and Mary - guiding and leading me. My heart is filled with gratitude to God, to those who believed in this mission, especially Bishop Gregory and the young women who have joined, and YOU.  Let us continue to pray for each other and vocations.
June 1, 2008 
June 1, 2018