The Maronite Patriarch's Homily in Saint Louis, Missouri, on October 05, 2011

On the third day of his pastoral visit to the Maronite eparchies in the United States, His Beatitude the Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Peter Al Rahi celebrated the holy mass at the church of Saint Romanos in Saint Louis, Missouri. Many bishops, guests and believers were attending. The Patriarch's homily was entitled:"Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13-20). Following is the full text of the homily:

Patriarch Al Rahi celebrating the Holy Eucharist

Your Excellencies Bishops Shaheen, Sayah, Merhi, Khoury, Abi Younes, Mansour and Madi

Very Reverend Abbots

Rev. Msgrs., Fathers, Deacons and Subdeacons

Distinguished Guests,

Dear Friends,

I am happy to be in your midst in St. Louis with my Vicar General Archbishop Paul Sayah and the newly ordained Bishop Hanna Alwan, Patriarchal Auxiliary for canonical affairs. This stop is part of my pastoral visit to the two eparchies of the United States of America. I am grateful to my brother Sayedna Robert for his hospitality and kindness as well as to Bishop Gregory and to their staff for organizing this visit. I am happy to see my brother bishops who have come from Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina as well as the superior generals of the Maronite religious orders who came from Lebanon. I bring to you the greeting of His Eminence Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir and the members of the synod of bishops.

Today’s readings speak of the way God wanted his church to carry out the mission. He sent His Only Son to proclaim his message to the world. The epistle speaks about the concept of covenant and how Jesus fulfilled it through his own life, death and resurrection. In the gospel, we recall a high point in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. He wanted them to know his true identity and the purpose of his coming.

He asks his disciples who people say he is. He was trying to find out what the people knew about him. In reply, the disciples give various answers.

People considered Jesus as one of the prophets, the one carrying the message of God to them; they did not think of him as the Son of God. Then, Jesus pointed directly to the Apostles asking them personally: “Who do you say that I am?” He wanted a clear answer from the people who have heard him, seen his miracles, and lived with him. He wanted to find out the depth of their faith and their knowledge about him.

Here Simon Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter, inspired by the Father in heaven, acknowledges Jesus’ true identity as Son and his role as Messiah, the long-awaited Savior.

In response to Simon’s declaration of faith, Jesus would entrust him with the task of leadership of the church that he intends to build: “You are Peter the rock and on this rock I will build my Church.” Then, his name is changed from Simon to Peter meaning the rock to signify the new role he will assume, the new life he will have as head of the apostles. Peter becomes the rock, the solid foundation that will support the others; he will become their servant leading by a spirit of love. In fact, one of the titles of the Pope, the successor of Peter, is “Servant of the Servants.” Peter and the apostles, and after him the Popes and bishops, are there to strengthen the weak, to gently correct the wrongdoers and to guide courageously the wandering in a spirit of “communion and love”. This is the motto I chose for my patriarchal ministry and this is what I have been trying to implement through my pastoral visits. Thus, we pursue the work of Peter and the apostles in fulfilling the Covenant between God and his people.

The image of the handing of the keys signifies that passing on of the authority to Peter and from him to his successors. The Pope, Patriarch, Bishop as disciples of Christ, are shepherds who work diligently to keep the flock together in communion with God and in a spirit of love with the other members, all the faithful who follow the way of the Lord.

Now as we open our pastoral visit to the United States of America and our meetings with my brother bishops of the expansion along with the superior generals, we need to ask ourselves: “Who is Christ for us? How do we fulfill his will in our life? How do we lead and what should we do to bring everybody to the flock, and to the green pastures?”

This question is put to each and every one of you as well. Christ wants a personal answer to this vital question. He wants to initiate a unique friendship with every one of us. We need to declare our faith strongly and clearly. We are proud to be Catholics, to be followers of Christ. We are not afraid of sharing our faith with others. Let us pray to have the courage of Peter to proclaim the true faith, to have the love of John who was there at the foot of the cross, and let us strive to live in communion and love.

I ask for your prayers for me and for all the bishops and superior generals as we meet to discuss important topics that will help our Maronite Church to grow stronger. We place our meetings under the protection of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lebanon, Patroness of the Eparchy and our Maronite Saints. Amen.

As published by the Maronite Patriarchate.

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