Daily Gospel: Eighth Sunday of Pentecost, July 31, 2011: Jesus the Servant Beloved

Letter to the Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 12:14-21
But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.’

Daily Gospel: Saturday of the Seventh Week of Pentecost, July 30, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 15:22-30
Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, with the following letter: ‘The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.’ So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

Daily Gospel: Friday of the Seventh Week of Pentecost, July 29, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 15:13-21
After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favourably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, "After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it,and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago." Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.’

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:29-37
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend." Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said,‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Daily Gospel: Thursday of the Seventh Week of Pentecost, July 28, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 15:1-12
Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.’ The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’ The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:25-28
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

Saint Charbel And The Sacrament Of Confession

Saint Charbel hated sin, he used to run away from anything that might cause him to sin, he was even disturbed if it was mentioned in his presence. All those who knew him well witnessed that he never committed intentionally any sin, not even a small one. He was known to abide strictly by the commandments of God and of the church and the Maronite order, he felt pain if others happened to break such commandments. 

The hermitage of Saint Peter & Paul Annaya where Saint Charbel
lived as a hermit for 29 years

He used to make a sincere examination of his conscience on a daily basis, and accounted himself for all his acts of the day. He went to confession on a weekly basis during all his life as monk and later on during his life as priest and hermit. 

Father Charbel used to listen to the confession of the believers when ordered by his superior, as he was not in charge of that. All those who confessed for him or asked for his advice praised his excessive interest about what's best for them and the deep impression he left in their souls. His words used to go straight to one’s heart and left a spiritual impact on the soul. Believers also talked about his wisdom and luminous advices that served to build a spiritual life. Saint Charbel was able to read one’s soul more than anybody else, and he never rejected anyone asking for his guidance or teaching, even religious persons. 

He loved to contribute to the salvation of souls, and suffered when he met those who were far from God. He prayed a lot for sinners and did his best to straighten their way again and draw them closer to Jesus. He listened to their confessions and often blamed people severely upon grave sins and imposed a tough penitence for forgiveness. He often listened to women’s confession when ordered by his superior. 

He strived to give hope for others, including the monks and priests, and if one of them happened to be seriously ill, the Superior called on father Charbel and insisted on him to give the confession or to anoint the patient, to encourage him and give him hope so that he can leave this life looking for the resurrection. Father Charbel often spent the whole night sitting next to the ill, only left him briefly for his midnight prayer at church. His Superior asked him on several occasions to go and pray over patients, and he always did it with great joy and contentment.

Daily Gospel: Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Pentecost, July 27, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28
But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.’
And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:17-20
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

Daily Gospel: Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Pentecost, July 26, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 14:8-18
In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And the man sprang up and began to walk. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,  ‘Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.’ Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:13-16
‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

Message of the Virgin Mary for the World, July 25, 2011 From Medjugorje

"Dear children! May this time be for you a time of prayer and silence. Rest your body and spirit, may they be in God’s love. Permit me, little children, to lead you, open your hearts to the Holy Spirit so that all the good that is in you may blossom and bear fruit one hundred fold. Begin and end the day with prayer with the heart. Thank you for having responded to my call."

Daily Gospel: Monday of the Seventh Week of Pentecost, July 25, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 14:1-7
The same thing occurred in Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to the word of his grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them. But the residents of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. And when an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to maltreat them and to stone them, the apostles learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they continued proclaiming the good news.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:8-12
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you." But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, "Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near." I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

The Flower of Lily

Besides her moral beauty, Saint Rafqa was of a rare physical beauty. According to Moussa Khayrallah’s wife from Jran:”she had a rounded face with very beautiful eyes, she was a tall girl and had a thin but strong body.” She was very meek and cheerful, her smile was pure and her voice was gentle. She had a very modest life, but her thoughts were noble, her words were chaste and all her acts were immaculate.

Church of Our Lady of Deliverance, Bikfaya

On some occasions during Sundays and feast days, she went to the church of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya. She confessed to her spiritual father, the man of God, the priest Youssef Gemayel. With a touching simplicity she confessed to him all her difficulties and desires. She asked him for advice concerning the salvation of her soul and the future of her spiritual life.

Her encounter with Father Gemayel could be considered as a precious providential gift that was given to her from the Most High for the sanctification of her soul. In fact the priest Gemayel was like her guardian angel, he was always present, and he guided her and supported her all the way on her path of virtue. Father Gemayel was a rare and exceptional kind of man, his firm character and his meekness of behavior made of him the exemplary priest, he represented all the holy virtues of priesthood.

Boutrossiyé was indeed a young orphan, but Father Youssef used to strengthen her with his spiritual advice and prepared her to listen to the voice of Jesus. He gave her the assurance that Our Lady will save her from evil, that she was her true mother who is watching over her, and that she was not alone.

On the other hand, father Youssef Gemayel was noticing Boutrossiyé’s strong aspirations for God and her ardent desire to realize them. She often asked him :”What should I do?” and her spiritual father who used to call her “the lily of Himlaya” knew very well that she was longing for God and that she was dreaming to see Jesus face to face and to contemplate him eternally.

Daily Gospel: Seventh Sunday of Pentecost, July 24, 2011: Sending of the Seventy-Two

Second Letter to the Corinthians 3:1-6
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10:1-7
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!" And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

Daily Gospel: Saturday of the Sixth Week of Pentecost, July 23, 2011

Letter to the Romans 8:28-39
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 13:36-43
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Memories of the War

Father Estephan Farhat Al Jaji testified about Blessed Estephan saying: "I met again with brother Estephan at the monastery of Saint Antonios Houb, upon the end of the First World War. Students were coming back to resume their studies at the school of our Lady of Succor (Al Maonat), and in summer time they used to join the different monasteries in the mountains for the same purpose. I was appointed by lot to the monastery of Houb at the time of the mandate of the Superior father Nehmetallah Al Lehfedy, and brother Estephan was a chief of field at that time".

Monastery of Saint Antonios Houb, between the mountains

"It was natural for me to become more attached to brother Estephan especially after our old days together at the monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq. I did not leave any available opportunity to find him and sit with him, especially in the barn which was far away from the monastery. We often spoke about the war and the dramatic implications it had on Lebanon and on the Lebanese people who died in big numbers from starvation, we remembered father Antonios Nehme the Superior of the monastery of Mayfouq, his pain and hard work and dangerous trips to Akkar, Homs, Hamah, trying desperately to find food and bring it with him for the monks and the workers and all the poor families that were living around the monastery."

"At those difficult times the doors of the monastery remained open for all, and the different photos at the reception of the monastery of Mayfouq which were taken at the courtyard of the monastery, are a witness of the big number of people who were depending on the monastery for their food. Brother Estephan and the other monks used to distribute food generously and lovingly on hungry and poor people."

Daily Gospel: Friday of the Sixth Week of Pentecost, July 22, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 13:26-39
‘My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you." As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "I will give you the holy promises made to David." Therefore he has also said in another psalm, "You will not let your Holy One experience corruption." For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16:5-12
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have brought no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!’ Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

A Culture Coming From the Heart

In his days, Saint Charbel was a real man of sanctity, his physical appearance inspired a simple and naïve man but in reality he was a master in theology and in spiritual matters. He was very smart and he excelled in his studies of literary theology, as well as the mastering of the Syriac language, and the translation from Syriac to Arabic and the mastering of the Arabic language. His answers were always clear and convincing, his conversations with other priests were about literary theology, the salvation of souls, the sacrament of reconciliation, and his tongue overflowed with words proceeding from his generous heart which was burning with Divine love.

The old church at the monastery of Saint Maron Annaya

Father Aalwan testified:” On several occasions he came from the hermitage down to the monastery to help us in the baking of the bread. He spoke to us about theology and we learned a lot from him. He was good at answering questions more than anyone else. He was accurate in his answers and nice in his expressions and very humble. He never spoke unless he was asked to, and all his speeches about piety and prayer revealed to us the deepness of his faith. He often mentioned verses from the Holy Gospel and the Holy scriptures and suggested to have each one of us say a verse that begins with the last letter of the mentioned verse, and he used to explain it.”

He never got bored or tired of reading the holy Gospel and from meditating about the life of Christ. He was an honest follower of the Gospel and he tried all his life to imitate Christ, he undertook all the deeds that made him worthy of being a disciple of Jesus: obedience, modesty, faithfulness, love for his neighbor as for himself, and prayer.

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Daily Gospel: Thursday of the Sixth Week of Pentecost, July 21, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 13:13-25
Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.’ So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: ‘You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, "I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes." Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, "What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet."

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16:1-4
The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then he left them and went away.

Saint Rafqa's Second Ordeal

“A while after my mother’s death, my father got remarried”

In 1847, When Boutrossiyé’s father brought her back from Damascus where she had spent four years working as a maid, she was fifteen years old. Her mother’s death which has hit hardly the little family and which has taken her by force out of her home, has also created in the husband’s heart a heavy cross of frustration, responsibility, fear and loneliness. Saber Al Rayess could not bear the separation, his widowhood gave him a deep feeling of isolation, he got married for the second time. His second wife gave birth to two daughters: Mary and Kafa.

An old house in the village of Himlaya, very similar to
Saint Rafqa's parental house

Young Boutrossiyé was shocked and suffered a lot from the new situation inside the family, but she excused her father and understood his difficulties and she respected her stepmother and helped her a lot.

But very soon the atmosphere in the family was disturbed once again. Saint Rafqa told her superior in 1912:”When I reached fifteen years, my stepmother wanted to marry me to her brother, and my maternal aunt wanted me for her son. The disagreement between the two women on my subject, has created a very negative atmosphere of dislike and enmity between them.” 

Boutrossiyé prayed without ceasing, and repeated constantly the psalm of David:”In you Lord I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness; Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” (Psalm 30)

Nevertheless, this conflict pushed Boutrossiyé to withdraw herself to a convent, as she told her Superior in 1912:”One day I was coming back from the fountain with a jar of water, I heard my stepmother and my aunt arguing, they were insulting each other and exchanging harmful words because of me. Each of them wanted to marry me according to her wish. I was very impressed and deeply moved as I was the reason for this hostility. So I stayed on the sidelines and I asked God to deliver me from this embarrassment. Then afterwards I had the idea of joining the religious order.”

Saint Rafqa has suffered a lot, in her body and in her soul, but she never lost her sovereignty over herself. Life with its difficulties have tried her soul on many occasions, but the waves of temptation always broke up and vanished in front of her absolute trust in Divine Mercy, and she always prevailed.

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Daily Gospel: Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Pentecost, July 20, 2011

Feast of Saint Elias the Prophet

Acts of the Apostles 12:25, 13:1-12
Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark. Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

Daily Gospel: Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Pentecost, July 19, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 12:12-24
As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’ Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, ‘Tell this to James and to the believers.’ Then he left and went to another place. When morning came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and could not find him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them. The people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!’ And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to Saint Matthew 15:10-20
Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’

Daily Gospel: Monday of the Sixth Week of Pentecost, July 18, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 15:1-9
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, "Honour your father and your mother," and, "Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die." But you say that whoever tells father or mother, "Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God", then that person need not honour the father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: "This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines."

Daily Gospel: Sixth Sunday of Pentecost, July 17, 2011: Sending of the Apostles

Third Sunday of July, Feast of Saint Charbel.

First Letter to the Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-30
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:16-25
‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

Saint Rafqa: Maid in Damascus

Between 1839 and 1842 during the rule of Emir Bashir, a regional war took place in Lebanon. It was a very severe conflict having political and economical impacts, it was also a civil war between Lebanese people of different religions. In 1841 the Egyptian army was driven by force outside Lebanon and Syria, and Emir Bashir was exiled to the island of Malta.

The economic situation became very difficult in Lebanon, especially in the Christian areas of Mount Lebanon, and the Metn area more specifically, areas that came under the ferocious rule of Ibrahim Basha.

In 1843, little Boutrossiyé was eleven years old when her father’s financial situation became so deteriorated that he decided to send her with his friend Assaad El Badwi to Damascus, Syria to work for him in his house as a maid.

An old picture of Al Marjeh square in Damascus, Syria

She stayed for four years, serving her masters with so much devotion and loyalty, living the words of Saint Paul who recommended all servants to be:” a model of loyalty, piety and purity.” Mrs. El Badwi was extremely nice to her and she treated her like a daughter, she gave her maternal tenderness and provided her with an excellent education. Boutrossiyé used to send all of her salary to her father in Lebanon to help him.

During her stay in Damascus, Boutrossiyé learned how to serve others. She earned the trust and respect of all those who knew her. Everybody admired her piety, her many virtues and her intelligence. People were also fascinated by the strong will that she had, and by her love to others and to God.

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Daily Gospel: Saturday of the Fifth Week of Pentecost, July 16, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 11:19-30
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’. At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:40-42, 11:1
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.

Daily Gospel: Friday of the Fifth Week of Pentecost, July 15, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 10:44-48
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,  ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:34-39
‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Daily Gospel: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Pentecost, July 14, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 10:23-27, 34-43
So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshipped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, ‘Stand up; I am only a mortal.’ And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:27-33
What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Daily Gospel: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Pentecost, July 13, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 10:1-10, 19-23
In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius.’ He stared at him in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ He answered, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.’ When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa. About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.’ So Peter went down to the men and said, ‘I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?’ They answered, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.’ So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:21-26
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

Saint Rafqa's First Communion

Little Boutrossiyé was overwhelmed with joy when she learned that she was called to be sitting for the first time at the “table of the angels” to receive her first communion. She was preparing herself ardently for the event, the heart of the little girl was burning with divine love and she was consumed with joy and fulfillment. Boutrossiyé was ten years old when she received her first communion.

The church of Saint George in the village of Himlaya

Her soul who always liked to be alone, understood very well the meaning of the Holy Eucharist. Since her deep understanding of the importance of this Holy sacrament, she was longing for the day when she will be honored by her first encounter with Christ through the Holy Communion. She was eager to experience God’s love and to return this love with her innocent devotion and pure love.

Many have testified about Saint Rafqa’s life, and all have agreed upon the fact that even in her early years, she remained faithful at all times to her Christian beliefs. She was deeply attached to her faith that she considered to be the only truth, she was firmly committed to Jesus as she understood quite well that he was the way and the truth and the life.

A year after her first communion, little Boutrossiyé received the sacrament of confirmation at the Saint George church at the parish in Himlaya. She has kept the same innocence that she had on the day of her baptism, and she never broke nor even loosened her strong ties with the Lord.

Around the same period, she was sent to school. She put all her efforts in her studies. After school she used to return immediately back home without stopping or giving any attention to children games of her age. She was the exemplary student with her frankness, meekness and her absolute obedience.

The graces received by the little girl were the first signs of the particular Divine plans for her. With her continuous prayers and personal encounters with Christ through the Holy Eucharist, she became resolved to sanctify herself perfectly for Jesus.

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Daily Gospel: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Pentecost, July 12, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 9:31-43
Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralysed. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!’ And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 13:9-13
‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Saint Charbel's Character

Saint Charbel looked like someone who was naïve and slow minded, but in reality he was very smart, and sharp minded. He had a pure heart, his speech was simple and nice, transparent without any ambiguity. His answers were always brief and concise but very clear. He only spoke the words that were necessary, to help people and for the salvation of souls. All his speeches were exclusively around religious subjects, all his acts oriented towards the salvation of his soul and the salvation of his neighbor.

Saint Charbel

He had a genuine opinion with regards to theological matters, and his little talk made of him a very concentrated and quick minded person. His smartness was reflected in the perfection of his job and acts, and everything around him was in a perfect and harmonious state. But all his wisdom and cleverness was sacrificed for the good of others, and he was crushing his own wills and desires for the sake of others, until he became a living example of the words of David in the psalms: I have become your slave and I am with you every day.

He had a naïve heart and he never had any intention or wish in his whole life except God, God alone. But he was far from being a naïve person and he had the wisdom of the Saints, he never left any occasion or reason for his superiors or brothers to blame or criticize him for any kind of misbehavior, but he always performed well his duties, honestly and precisely. He never forgot any of his due tasks and was always seeking the satisfaction of his superiors and brothers leaving no place for them to find any gap in his acts.

His strict observance of the monastic rules showed his deep knowledge of such rules. His talk of the spirit was a supreme talk since that he had taken the way of ultimate perfection that he would never give away, not even a little. With his discipline he managed to put everything around him in order and he never pronounced any single word out of the context. His Theological answers were deep and meaningful and his wisdom has spared him bad thoughts and temptations, superstitions and unnecessary exaggerations.

When he studied at the monastery of Kfifane, he worked very hard and learnt very well, but he always looked naïve and poor minded. When it came to acts of penance and repression of the body, even though frequent and continuous, he always did such acts with joy and persistence, and he never suffered any illness or health disorder due to the tough acts of penance.

Besides his decent tongue, his good discipline implied respect and appreciation for him from all those who knew him. He never caused anyone to stumble, but quite the contrary, as everybody considered him to be a Saint and asked for his blessing, his superiors considered him to be an example to follow. He had the wisdom that was not of this world, as he was not of this world.

Daily Gospel: Monday of the Fifth Week of Pentecost, July 11, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 9:19-30.
And after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests? ’ Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah. After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:8-15.
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.

Daily Gospel: Fifth Sunday of Pentecost July 10, 2011: Call of the Apostles

Letter to the Philippians 3:7-14.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10:1-7.
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near."


Daily Gospel: Saturday of the Fourth Week of Pentecost, July 09, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 9:1-6, 10-11, 15-19.
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying.

But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 11:25-30.
At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Communiqué of the Monthly Meeting of the Maronite Bishops, 6th of July, 2011

As published by the Maronite Patriarchate.

On July 6, 2011, Their Excellencies the Maronite Bishops held at Bkerkeh their monthly meeting which was presided over by His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai and with the participation of His Beatitude and Eminence Nasrallah Butros Cardinal Sfeir. They studied church and national matters. At the end of the meeting, they issued the following communiqué:

1 – The annual synod, which the Fathers held at the beginning of last month, was an occasion for the meeting of all Bishops who had come from all over the world, for praying and thinking together and taking important decisions related to the Church life and its future in Lebanon, the Patriarchal territory and countries abroad. The Fathers thank God for all the graces He bestows upon His Church and ask Him to strengthen in it the spirit of brotherhood, love and peace.

2 – The Fathers wish, for the new government to start, strengthened by the parliament vote of confidence, to treat the national and citizens’ affairs and bear its big responsibilities in this grave phase of Lebanon and the region’s history. On the internal level, it works at bringing together points of view among the Lebanese, uniting their ranks, gathering their word and treating their social, economic, political and humanitarian questions. Towards the outside, it applies itself at respecting covenants, treaties, holding to international resolutions and preserving Lebanese’s position among civilized countries.

3– The issuing of the bill of indictment by the international court, at the time when the new government was getting ready to discuss its ministerial statement, has stirred the discussion and increased the gap between the political parties in Lebanon. Thus, the Fathers appeal to all political authorities to keep up to the high democratic discussion, endeavor to unite the view , bring forth the truth and work at implementing justice which has for effect to put an end to the serial murders and to stir discord in the country.

4– Troubles and painful events still blow over a number of the region countries, causing there a number of casualties, spreading destruction, disorder and unclearness about what might come out of it as deep social and political changes. While the Fathers express their anxiety about this situation, they ask God to grant security, peace and stability to these countries. They encourage their sons and daughters to hold to their land, love their homelands and serve them, endeavor to witness for spiritual, social and humane values in the line of the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. They also call upon their Lebanese sons, daughters and brothers to beware the spreading of discord to their homeland, work seriously to unite their ranks, surround their national institutions and preserve unity and common life which distinguish Lebanon, making of it “a message” of plurality, freedom and democracy for the world.

5– The Fathers bring back to mind the next general Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod in Rome about “new evangelization”. They call the committees, concerned by this subject in the eparchies to study the main lines and answer their questions within the limited period and work at renewing pastoral and spiritual life and bear the expected witness.

6– At the start of the Summer season, the Lebanese look forward to it to be a flourishing tourist season, an occasion for the return of many of their children and brothers living abroad who crave after family reunion, enjoying Lebanese climate, getting acquainted with its beautiful historical and natural places. The Fathers call upon them to visit also religious places, take the benediction of the saints’ relics and raise prayers to God so that He bestows upon our homeland and the region’s countries, prosperity and peace.

Daily Gospel, Friday of the Fourth Week of Pentecost, July 08, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40.
Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer,so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18:21-35.
Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred dinars; and seizing him by the throat, he said, "Pay what you owe." Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you." But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?" And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

Merciful and Loving

At the time of Brother Estephan, the Monastery of Mayfouq was hosting 73 monks. When anyone of them crossed Brother Estephan, he embraced him with respect and love, because every night after his return from the field, Estephan visited all of them in their rooms and checked on them with love, and took care of the necessities of the eldest among them. And if he ever heard any monk speaking badly about any of his brothers, he left immediately with sadness.

Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq

One of the workers at the monastery of Kfifane testified:” I was a fourteen years old young man working on the land with the pick behind the ox, as oxen usually leave undone parts of land especially near walls, trees and vines. As I was still young my hands were not used to this kind of long and hard work, my palms cracked and blood came out. When Brother Estephan saw me he felt pity for me and said:”O Dear” and made me stop working and brought a special kind of herbs known for healing wounds and took care of my wounds. When he finished he said to me:”stop working with the pick, go and collect some stones” and this kind of work was a lot easier for me.”

Brother Estephan was very merciful to the workers and laborers who came to him to repair the agricultural tools: plows, yokes, forks, picks and others, he always made the necessary repairs for them with great pleasure and always talked to them nicely but with decency and a lot of respect.

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Daily Gospel: Thursday of the Fourth Week of Pentecost, July 07, 2011

Acts of the Apostles 8:9, 13-25.
Now a certain man named Simon had previously practised magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place. Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.’ Simon answered, ‘Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.’ Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18:15-20.
‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’