The Maronite Church, A Church of Hope (Part 2)


By nature, the Church is driven forward towards the fulfillment of the kingdom of Heaven to which Christ called us to belong. He established its foundations and principles in order to guide all believers towards the kingdom. The Maronite Church is seeking to institute a constant spiritual renewal which includes multiple facets of Her life; She invites all Her children to strengthen their hope in Christ, despite all the difficulties and disappointments that they may face on more than one level. In all, the Maronite Church relies on the strength of the Holy Spirit who assists her in her journey and breathes hope into her. 


Church inside the monastery of
Saint Antonios Kozhaya, Kannoubin


In order to highlight its comprehensive outlook toward a hope that is built on complete trust in God and in His promises we have simply to go back to certain sources in our Maronite heritage. The following text will have recourse only to liturgical texts about the tribulations of hope. It will then move to analyzing the current state of affairs and its concerns, along with its signs of hope that enrich our Church and help her in forecasting a future of hope. 

Hope is based on the promises of God in the Beatitudes, the upholding of the commandments, and the carrying of His burden, if we are to enter the kingdom of Heaven: “Help us O Lord to keep on seeking the kingdom of Heaven which You have promised us and to yearn for the blessings that You have prepared for us” (Wednesday evening). Hoping in Christ's promises is consolation: “Console us, O Lord, with the hope of Your true and abundant promises, save us from the tribulations of the temptations and sorrows surrounding us…Help us to follow the path of Your commandments” (Friday evening). However, the believer and the community in its diversity are faced with hurdles and hardships. Some of these stem from the heart of the human being who indulges in worldly matters and their temptations, forgets God, and commits sins. Here the sinner compares between his wretchedness and the mercy and compassion of God, so that he remembers Him: “This wretched soul glorifies You because You have embraced him in Your mercy though he is not deserving. Your compassion has given him greatness from nothing. You have created him with Your grace, You have saved him for You are all merciful, and You have pity on him for You are all compassionate…” (Monday morning, 3rd hour). He also remembers God’s forgiveness of the sinful woman and beseeches Him by saying, “My Lord, the sinful woman has beseeched You with pious tears and sighs and You forgave her sins through the abundance of Your mercy. You have made her the hope of all who repent” (Monday Night). 

This is why there was an appeal to become aware of temptations, and the need to avoid them. This appeal stems from meditation on the end of the world, from renunciation of the world and its despotic rulers, and from avoidance of worldly traps. On the other hand, there also is an appeal to remember the promise of the kingdom of Heaven which calls upon each person to remain vigilant like the wise virgins and to keep the lamps lit, awaiting the Heavenly Bridegroom, who is Christ, the One who brings joy to all who have awaited him. He invites them to come to the Wedding Feast and places them at His right hand, granting them eternal life. 

Some of the other hardships that face the believer stem from the external world itself. The Church is surrounded by obstacles on all sides, which is why she beseeches God to have mercy on her and to save her: “The Church is beseeching You with pain and tears, for all her children suffering from pain, hunger, disease, torture, and oppression. O God grant them Your mercy, so that all those bowing before You will know the promise of Your salvation, and all the people will praise You and glorify You” (Tuesday evening). 

“O Lord, bestow peace on the whole earth, put an end to war and enmity between all Your creatures, preserve the Churches and the monasteries…and safeguard Your people” (Wednesday morning, third hymn). 

In spite of all the hardships, Christ remains “The helper of the righteous, the hope of all the pious and the refuge of all believers” (Saturday evening). That is why they come to him to support them, “O Christ the King, you are the hope of all believers, you are our Savior. We beseech you every hour. Come to our aid O God and strengthen us in Your ways so that we may praise You and glorify You at all times” (Sunday evening).
 

Daily Gospel: Saturday of Lazarus, March 31, 2012


First Letter to the Thessalonians 2:17-20, 3:1-5.
As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you in person, not in heart we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy! Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint John 11:55-57, 12:1-11.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Daily Gospel: Friday the 40th Day of Great Lent: Temptation of Jesus, March 30, 2012


Saint of the day: St John Climacus, Confessor.

Second Letter to the Thessalonians 3:6-18.
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 4:1-13.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "One does not live by bread alone." ’Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him." ’Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you", and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." ’Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." ’When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Pope Benedict XVI's Mass and Homily in Havana, Cuba on Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An estimated 300 thousand Cuban faithful filled Havana’s Revolution Square for an open air Mass presided over by Pope Benedict XVI on the final day of his visit to the Americas. On a trip to the Cuban capital a few years back, the granddaughter of author Ernest Hemingway was heard to remark that Cuba has three icons: Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and her grandfather. Certainly the American author and journalist is still revered around here with hotels, bars and restaurants named after him and his medal for the 1954 Nobel prize for literature kept safely inside the shrine of Our Lady of El Cobre, where he left it as a sign of his love for the Cuban people.



Images of the country’s two revolutionary leaders are also to be found everywhere around Havana, including the famous black portraits silhouetted on the front of the Interior Ministry in Revolution Square where Pope Benedict celebrated Mass on at the end of his visit to Cuba. The square, made famous by Fidel’s political rallies, was filled with hundreds of thousands of faithful who’d come from all over Cuba, as well as from the United States, to join the Pope in praying for a new kind of revolution here – one that will change hearts, promote peace and set people free.

In his homily Pope Benedict spoke of faith and reason as the two keys for those who pursue the truth – anyone who acts irrationally, he said, cannot become a disciple of Christ. Returning to a central theme of this short visit to Cuba, the Pope stressed that in order to carry out her mission in pursuit of that truth, the Church here must be able to enjoy more freedom to proclaim and celebrate the faith in public and to promote reconciliation, through education and other social services.

Recalling in particular the legacy of Fr Felix Varela, a 19th century Cuban writer, teacher and human rights defender, Pope Benedict said Cuba and the world must change for the benefit of all people here. Many of those gathered in Revolution square will remember similar words spoken by Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to the island 14 years ago – a visit that has been immortalized in statues and pictures of the previous Pope in Churches and shrines around the country. On his visit to the basilica of Our Lady of Charity, patron of the Cuban people, Pope Benedict stood outside between twin statues of his predecessor and Fr Varela, who will soon be on the road to sainthood. Three new icons perhaps for a Church and a nation longing for a brighter future of peace, prosperity and freedom.

Below the text of Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily at Mass in Revolution Square, Havana

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Blessed are you, Lord God…, and blessed is your holy and glorious name” (Dan 3:52). This hymn of blessing from the Book of Daniel resounds today in our liturgy, inviting us repeatedly to bless and thank God. We are a part of that great chorus which praises the Lord without ceasing. We join in this concert of thanksgiving, and we offer our joyful and confident voice, which seeks to consolidate the journey of faith in love and truth.

“Blessed be God” who gathers us in this historic square so that we may more profoundly enter into his life. I feel great joy in being here with you today to celebrate Holy Mass during this Jubilee Year devoted to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.

I greet with cordial affection Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and I thank him for the kind words which he has addressed to me on your behalf. I extend warm greetings to the Cardinals and to my brother Bishops of Cuba and other countries who wished to take part in this solemn celebration. I also greet the priests, seminarians, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful gathered here, as well as the civil authorities who join us.

In today’s first reading, the three young men persecuted by the Babylonian king preferred to face death by fire rather than betray their conscience and their faith. They experienced the strength to “give thanks, glorify and praise God” in the conviction that the Lord of the universe and of history would not abandon them to death and annihilation. Truly, God never abandons his children, he never forgets them. He is above us and is able to save us by his power. At the same time, he is near to his people, and through his Son Jesus Christ he has wished to make his dwelling place among us in.

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:31). In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the one who alone can show us the truth and give genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among his hearers, and he accuses them of seeking to kill him, alluding to the supreme sacrifice of the Cross, already imminent. Even so, he exhorts them to believe, to keep his word, so as to know the truth which redeems and dignifies.

The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), proclaiming that man is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. They, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each human being has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.

Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.

Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. The believer is called to offer that truth to his contemporaries, as did the Lord, even before the dark omen of rejection and the Cross. The personal encounter with the one who is Truth in person compels us to share this treasure with others, especially by our witness.

Dear friends, do not hesitate to follow Jesus Christ. In him we find the truth about God and about mankind. He helps us to overcome our selfishness, to rise above our ambitions and to conquer all that oppresses us. The one who does evil, who sins, becomes a slave of sin and will never attain freedom (cf. Jn 8:34). Only by renouncing hatred and our hard and blind hearts will we be free and a new life will well up in us.

Convinced that it is Christ who is the true measure of man, and knowing that in him we find the strength needed to face every trial, I wish to proclaim openly Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life. In him everyone will find complete freedom, the light to understand reality more deeply and to transform it by the renewing power of love.

The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col 1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s Government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole.

The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.

When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, mankind becomes more human and founds its consistency. This is why the Church seeks to give witness by her preaching and teaching, both in catechesis and in schools and universities. It is greatly to be hoped that the moment will soon arrive when, here too, the Church can bring to the arenas of knowledge the benefits of the mission which the Lord entrusted to her and which she can never neglect.

A shining example of this commitment was the outstanding priest Félix Varela, educator and teacher, an illustrious son of this city of Havana, who has taken his place in Cuban history as the first one who taught his people how to think. Father Varela offers us a path to a true social transformation: to form virtuous men and women in order to forge a worthy and free nation, for this transformation depends on man’s spiritual life, in as much as “there is no authentic fatherland without virtue” (Letters to Elpidio, Letter 6, Madrid 1836, 220). Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity.

Invoking the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, let us ask that each time we participate in the Eucharist we will also become witnesses to that charity which responds to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:51), offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to the one who lovingly gave himself up for our sake. Let us walk in the light of Christ who alone can destroy the darkness of error. And let us beg him that, with the courage and strength of the saints, we may be able, without fear or rancour but freely, generously and consistently, to respond to God. Amen.

Daily Gospel: Thursday of the Sixth Week of Great Lent, March 29, 2012


Saint of the day: St Cyril of Baalbeck, Martyr.

Letter to Titus 2:1-8.
But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 18:31-34.
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Daily Gospel: Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Great Lent, March 28, 2012


First Letter to the Thessalonians 4:1-9.
Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another;

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 11:37-48.
While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.  ‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’ One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs.

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Santiago de Cuba on Monday, March 26, 2012

Pope Benedict celebrated mass in Maceo Square in Santiago de Cuba on Monday before thousands of the Cuban faithful. In his homily the Pope told them Mary occupies a central placre in the Christian faith and in the life of the Church in Cuba which is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Below is the full text of the Pope's homily:

 



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I give thanks to God who has allowed me to come to you and to make this much anticipated trip. I greet Bishop Dionisio García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, and I thank him for his warm words of welcome offered on behalf of everyone. I greet the Bishops of Cuba and those who have come from elsewhere, and the priests, religious men and women, seminarians and lay faithful present for this celebration. I cannot forget all those who, for reasons of illness, advanced age or for other motives, are not able to join us. I also greet the civil Authorities who have graciously wished to join us.

This first Holy Mass which I have the joy of celebrating during my pastoral visit to this country, takes place in the context of the Marian Jubilee Year called to honour and to venerate Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba, in this fourth centenary of the discovery and presence of her venerable statue in this blessed land. I cannot forget the sacrifices and the dedication with which this jubilee has been prepared, especially spiritually. I was deeply touched to hear of the fervour with which Mary has been welcomed and invoked by so many Cubans during her journey to every corner of the island.

These important events in the Church in Cuba take on a special lustre because of the feast celebrated today throughout the universal Church: the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and in it Mary occupies a central place. But, we ask, what is the meaning of this mystery? And, what importance does it have for our concrete lives?

First of all, let us see what the Incarnation means. In the Gospel of Saint Luke we heard the words of the angel to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). In Mary, the Son of God is made man, fulfilling in this way the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God-with-us’” (Is 7:14). Jesus, the Word made flesh, is truly God-with-us, who has come to live among us and to share our human condition. The Apostle Saint John expresses it in the following way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The expression, “became flesh” points to our human reality in most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to him. Mary did so as the first fruit of believers with her unreserved “Yes” to the Lord.

For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her so as to be filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), did the eternal Word of the Father began his human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father - that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of his infinite love; hence, to live in accordance with his will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in his determination to conform himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will (cf. Lectio Divina with the parish priests of Rome, 18 February 2010).

Dear brothers and sisters, today we praise the Most Holy Virgin for her faith, and with Saint Elizabeth we too say, “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). As Saint Augustine said, Mary conceived Christ by faith in her heart before she conceived him physically in her womb; Mary believed and what she believed was came to be in her (cf. Sermo 215, 4: PL 38, 1074). Let us ask the Lord to strengthen our faith, to make it active and fruitful in love. Let us implore him that, like her, we may welcome the word of God into our hearts, and carry it out with docility and constancy.

The Virgin Mary, by her unique role in the mystery of Christ, represents the exemplar and model of the Church. The Church, like the Mother of Christ, is also called to embrace in herself the mystery of God who comes to live in her. Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, boldness and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. It is worth the effort, dear brothers and sisters, to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person, to all our brothers and sisters. I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in his Resurrection, he has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not fail to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.

The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy.

Dear brothers and sisters, before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God. Amen.


Daily Gospel: Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Great Lent, March 27, 2012


"My time has not yet come"

 

Letter to the Romans 8:12-18.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint John 7:1-13.
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, ‘He is a good man’, others were saying, ‘No, he is deceiving the crowd.’ Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.

Daily Gospel: Feast of Saint Gabriel the Archangel. Monday, March 26, 2012




Book of Revelation 12:7-12.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint John 1:47-51.
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Message of the Virgin Mary for the World on March 25, 2012 From Medjugorje





“Dear children! Also today, with joy, I desire to give you my motherly blessing and to call you to prayer. May prayer become a need for you to grow more in holiness every day. Work more on your conversion because you are far away, little children. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Homily in Leon, Mexico on March 25, 2012


Some 500 thousand faithful turned out on a splendid sunny day in Leon, Mexico for a big outdoor mass in the city's Bicentenary Park celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. In his homily on this, the fifth Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father prayed that Christ "reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility" and urged Catholics to "resist the temptation of a faith that is superficial and routine, at times fragmentary and incoherent. Here, we need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover the joy of being Christians."

Below is the full translation of the Pope's homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very pleased to be among you today and I express my sincere gratitude to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, for his kind words of welcome. I greet the Mexican Bishops, and the Cardinals and other Bishops present here, and in a special way those who have come from Latin America and the Caribbean. I also extend a warm greeting to the authorities that are with us, as well as all who have gathered for this Holy Mass presided by the Successor of Peter.

We said, “A pure heart, create for me, O God” (Ps 50:12) during the responsorial psalm. This exclamation shows us how profoundly we must prepare to celebrate next week the great mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. It also helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America.

The desire for a heart that would be pure, sincere, humble, acceptable to God was very much felt by Israel as it became aware of the persistence in its midst of evil and sin as a power, practically implacable and impossible to overcome. There was nothing left but to trust in God’s mercy and in the hope that he would change from within, from the heart, an unbearable, dark and hopeless situation. In this way recourse gained ground to the infinite mercy of the Lord who does not wish the sinner to die but to convert and live (cf. Ez 33:11). A pure heart, a new heart, is one which recognizes that, of itself, it is impotent and places itself in God’s hands so as to continue hoping in his promises. Then the psalmist can say to the Lord with conviction: “Sinners will return to you” (Ps 50:15). And towards the end of the psalm he will give an explanation which is at the same time a firm conviction of faith: “A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn” (v. 19).

The history of Israel relates some great events and battles, but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud. This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same through his Son Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel takes up the topic and shows us how this ancient desire for the fullness of life has actually been achieved in Christ. Saint John explains it in a passage in which the wish of some Greeks to see Jesus coincides with the moment in which the Lord is about to be glorified. Jesus responds to the question of the Greeks, who represent the pagan world, saying: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). This is a strange response which seems inconsistent with the question asked by the Greeks. What has the glorification of Jesus to do with the request to meet him? But there is a relation. Someone might think – says Saint Augustine – that Jesus felt glorified because the Gentiles were coming to him. This would be similar to the applause of the multitudes who give “glory” to those who are grand in the world, as we would say today. But this is not so. “It was convenient that, before the wonder of his glorification, should come the humility of his passion” (In Joannis Ev. 51:9: PL 35, 1766).

Jesus’ answer, announcing his imminent passion, means that a casual encounter in those moments would have been superficial and perhaps deceptive. The Greeks will see the one they wished to meet raised up on the cross from which he will attract all to himself (cf. Jn 12:32). There his “glory” will begin, because of his sacrifice of expiation for all, as the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that by dying germinates and produces abundant fruit. They will find the one whom, unknown to them, they were seeking in their hearts, the true God who is made visible to all peoples. This was how Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to Saint Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by whom all live, the Creator of persons, of closeness and immediacy, of heaven and earth (cf. Nican Mopohua, v.33). At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Dear brothers and sisters, by coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. My venerable predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, although he ardently desired to do so, was unable on his several journeys to this beloved land to visit this site of such significance for the faith of the Mexican people. I am sure that in heaven he is happy that the Lord has granted me the grace to be here with you and that he has blessed the millions of Mexicans who have venerated his relics in every corner of the country. This monument represents Christ the King. But his crowns, one of a sovereign, the other of thorns, indicate that his royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many. His kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power than wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness. This is his sovereignty which no one can take from him and which no one should forget. Hence it is right that this shrine should be above all a place of pilgrimage, of fervent prayer, of conversion, of reconciliation, of the search for truth and the acceptance of grace. We ask Christ, to reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility.

From this park, foreseen as a memorial of the bicentenary of the birth of the Mexican nation, bringing together many differences towards one destiny and one common quest, we ask Christ for a pure heart, where he as Prince of Peace may dwell “thanks to the power of God who is the power of goodness, the power of love”. But for God to dwell in us, we need to listen to him; we must allow his Word to challenge us every day, meditating upon it in our hearts after the example of Mary (cf. Lk 2:51). In this way we grow in friendship with him, we learn to understand what he expects from us and we are encouraged to make him known to others.

At Aparecida, the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean saw with clarity the need to confirm, renew and revitalize the newness of the Gospel rooted deeply in the history of these lands “on the basis of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ which raises up disciples and missionaries” (Final Document, 11). The Continental Mission now taking place in the various dioceses of this continent has the specific task of transmitting this conviction to all Christians and ecclesial communities so that they may resist the temptation of a faith that is superficial and routine, at times fragmentary and incoherent. Here we need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover “the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy spring the energies that are needed to serve Christ in distressing situations of human suffering, placing oneself at his disposition and not falling back on one’s own comfort” (Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2011). This can be seen clearly in the saints who dedicated themselves fully to the cause of the Gospel with enthusiasm and joy without counting the cost, even of life itself. Their heart was centred entirely on Christ from whom they had learned what it means to love until the end.

In this sense the Year of Faith, to which I have convoked the whole Church, “is an invitation to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the only Saviour of the world […]. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (Porta Fidei 6, 7).

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist us in purifying our hearts, especially in view of the coming Easter celebrations, that we may enter more deeply the salvific mystery of her Son, as she made it known in this land. And let us also ask her to continue accompanying and protecting her Mexican and Latin American children, that Christ may reign in their lives and help them boldly to promote peace, harmony, justice and solidarity. Amen.

Daily Gospel: Sixth Sunday of Great Lent, Sunday of the Blind Man and Feast of Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, March 25, 2012




"Here am I, the servant of the Lord."



Second Letter to the Corinthians 10:1-7.
I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold towards you when I am away! I ask that when I am present I need not show boldness by daring to oppose those who think we are acting according to human standards. Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. We are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 10:46-52,
Saint Luke 1:26-38.
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Pope Benedict XVI's Arrival Speech to Mexico on Friday, March 23, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Mexico on Friday, at the start of his six-day trip to Latin America that will also take him to the island nation of Cuba. In remarks during the official welcome ceremony, the Holy Father said he has come to confirm the people of Mexico, Cuba and all Latin America in their faith, at a time when the peoples of the region are celebrating the bicentenary of their independence.

"I come," said Pope Benedict, "I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently."

Below, is the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's speech at the welcome ceremony.

Mister President,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Civil Authorities,
Beloved People of Guanajuato and of Mexico,

I am very happy to be here, and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realize the desire, kept in my heart for a long time; to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land. The affection of the Mexican people for the Successor of Peter, whom they always remember in their prayers, is well known. I say this here, considered to be the geographical centre of your land, which my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, wanted to visit during his first Apostolic Journey. Although he was not able to come, on that occasion he left a message of encouragement while flying over its airspace. I am happy to repeat his words here on land among you: “I am grateful”, he said in the message, “to the faithful of El Bajío and Guanajuato for your affection towards the Pope and your faithfulness to the Lord. May God be with you always” (cf. Telegram, 30 January 1979).

With this in mind, I offer my thanks to you, Mister President, for your warm welcome and I respectfully greet your wife and the rest of the civil authorities who have honoured me by their presence. I offer a special greeting to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, and to the Most Reverend Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepantla and President of the Mexican Episcopal Conference and the Latin America Episcopal Council. With this brief visit, I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the nations and peoples of Latin America, represented here by many Bishops. Our meeting in this place, where the majestic monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, gives testimony to the deep roots of the Catholic faith among the Mexican people, who receive his constant blessings in all their vicissitudes.

Mexico, and the majority of Latin American nations, have been commemorating in recent years the bicentennial of their independence. There have been many religious celebrations in thanksgiving to God for this important and significant moment. During these celebrations, as in the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Most Holy Mary was invoked fervently, she who gently showed how the Lord loves all people and gave himself for them without distinction. Our Heavenly Mother has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.

I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity.

As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of Saint Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13). Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life. Yes, hope changes the practical existence of each man and woman in a real way (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). Hope points to “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), that is already making visible some of its reflections. Moreover, when it takes root in a people, when it is shared, it shines as light that dispels the darkness which blinds and takes hold of us. This country and the entire continent are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world. As I said in Rome, “continue progressing untiringly in the building of a society founded upon the development of the good, the triumph of love and the spread of justice” (Homily, 12 December 2011).

Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ – indeed the whole Church – lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations” (Deus Caritas Est, 31), as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love.

Mister President, my dear friends: in these days I will pray to the Lord and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of you so that you may be true to the faith which you have received and to its best traditions. I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence. I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome. I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart. I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see it growth in harmony and in authentic integral development. Thank you!


Daily Gospel: Saturday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent, March 24, 2012





"Be Opened."


Letter to the Colossians 3:23-25, 4:1-7.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven. Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow-servant in the Lord.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 7:31-37.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Daily Gospel: Feast of Saint Rafqa, Confessor. March 23.




"There is need of only one thing."



Second Letter to the Corinthians 1:1-7.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.

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: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent, March 22, 2012


"Why are you afraid?"

 
Second Letter to Timothy 1:6-14.
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 4:33-41.
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Daily Gospel: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent, March 21, 2012


"I say to you, rise!"

Letter to the Ephesians 6:1-9.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  ‘Honour your father and mother’ this is the first commandment with a promise:  ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 7:11-17.
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us! ’ and ‘God has looked favourably on his people!’ This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

The Maronite Church, a Church of Hope (Part 1)


The Christians in general (and Maronites, in particular) are the children of history and are the children of the Divine initiative in creation as well as in salvation. Their hope is rooted in this Divine work, whose main traits are embodied in God’s fulfillment of His promises that will be achieved despite all adversities. This is why historical memory is considered one of the carriers of hope. When the believer looks over the history of salvation and the history of his Church he discovers, that he too is the son of the promise that began with Abraham, was fulfilled in Christ, and will reach its fulfillment in the kingdom of Heaven. That is why he clings to the hope that does not disappoint because its source and its foundations are in God. This does not mean that he runs away from or avoids the harshness of reality; rather he faces this reality with faith and with determination. What was considered indignation turns into a blessing by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God has placed in our hearts to form the deep-rooted basis for our hope. 

The Maronite liturgical texts are very rich in expressing the theme of hope because they are inspired by the Holy Bible as a history of salvation with an accent on the eschatological. We look in this text at one single model which is the weekly Divine Office in Ordinary Time. This model is sufficient to offer a clear idea of the concept of hope, its content and the horizons that it opens. 

- There are numerous texts that address Christ as the only hope for believers because He is the Savior of the world and never disappoints those who rely on Him. “Glory be to your mercy O Christ our King, O Son of God to whom all creatures bow. You are our King, our Lord, and our reason for living, you are our great hope” (Office for Thursday morning: the Hymns of St. Ephrem). “You are our realm, our treasure, our precious pearl, our wreath and our crown” (Thursday: Office of the ninth hour, proem ion). 

- Further, the metaphors used in describing Christ as the Light, the Resurrection, and the Life, the deeds that he has done throughout his life, his exhortations to rely on Him, encourage believers to take refuge in Him and to ask for His aid: “We know not of another door to knock upon except Your door O God because You have said through Your sacred words: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Saturday evening). 

- The prayers are rich in reciting the wonders of God in the Old and the New Testaments and the prayers beseech Him to intervene now. Also, the appearance of Christ to his Apostles, the calming of the storm, the salvation of Daniel and the sons of Hanania are mentioned in these prayers: “Hear our prayers like You have heard theirs, O good and clement Lord; answer our prayers, like You have accepted theirs; protect us under Your wings on the day of Your coming O Lord because our hope lies in You, and we rely on You, and it is You whom we call Our God, for glory be unto You” (Monday evening, the fourth rising). 

Countless are the texts in the Maronite liturgy asking God that since He has answered the prayers of many of His servants, so He may also answer the prayers of those who beseech Him now because He is their succor and their hope.

Daily Gospel: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent, March 20, 2012


First Letter to Timothy 1:1-8.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 6:47-56.
When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Feast of Saint Joseph

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Joseph on March 19. Saint Joseph was the spouse of the Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ our Lord. He was of the line of David and worked as a carpenter at Nazareth. God chose him for the greatest mission ever conferred upon a man. His humility, his sanctity and his confidence in God were remarkable. Devotion to Saint Joseph had its orgins in the West. The whole Church now venerates him; the Maronite Church also commemorates him on the Fifth Sunday of Announcement as it prepared for the Birth of our Lord.

Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus


“Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God,” Pope John Paul II had once said.

There is very little about the life of Joseph in Scripture but still, we know that he was the chaste husband of Mary, the foster father of Jesus, a carpenter and a man who was not wealthy. We also know that he came from the royal lineage of King David.

We can see from his actions in scripture that Joseph was a compassionate man, and obedient to the will of God. He also loved Mary and Jesus and wanted to protect and provide for them. Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph had probably died before Jesus entered public ministry.

Matthew's gospel describes St. Joseph as a "just man" (1:19). He is the patron saint of the Universal Church, and people invoke his aid for workers, families, and the grace of a happy death, among other things.

St. Thomas Aquinas once noted that St. Joseph is unique among patron saints in that he is able to assist us at anytime for anything. St Theresa of Avila echoed this sentiment when she wrote "I know by experience that the glorious St. Joseph assists us generally in all necessities. I never asked him for anything which he did not obtain for me."




Holy Gospel: Feast of St Joseph the Virgin, Spouse of the Virgin Mary. March 19.




Letter to the Ephesians 3:1-13.
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Matthew 1:18-25.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

The Catholic Church Shares the Grief of the Loss of Pope Shenouda III




Below, is the translation of the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's Message of condolence upon the death of Pope Shenouda III of Alexendria:


"On learning of the sad departure to God, our common Father, of His Holiness Shenouda III, Patriarch of Alexandria on the See of Saint Mark the Evangelist, I wish to express to the members of the Holy Synod, to the priests and all the faithful of all the Patriarchate, my most sincere brotherly compassion. I recall with gratitude his commitment to Christian Unity, his memorable visit to my predecessor Pope Paul VI, and their signing of the Joint Declaration of Faith in the Incarnation of the Son of God together in Rome, on May 10, 1973, as well as his Cairo meeting with Pope John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation, on February24, 2000. I can say how the Catholic Church as a whole shares the grief that afflicts the Orthodox Copts, and how she stands in fervent prayer asking that He, who is who is the Resurrection and the Life, might welcome his faithful servant. May the God of all mercy receive Pope Shenouda in His joy, His peace and light."

Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Angelus Message, March 18, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday appealed for continued commitment to achieving equitable access to safe water resources adequate to the needs of all.

Speaking after the traditional Angelus prayer on the Sunday that marks the mid-way point of the season of Lent, and in the context of the close – on Saturday – of the VI World Water Forum in Marseille, the Pope expressed hope that the success of the initiatives undertaken during the course of the meeting will promote the right to life and the nutrition of every human person, as well as a responsible use of the Earth’s resources in a manner ordered to the common good, in the present and into the future.

Before the Angelus, the focus of the Holy Father’s brief catechesis was the great period of penitential preparation for Easter, in which the Church now finds Herself. He called the Lenten season, “A journey with Jesus across the ‘desert’ - a time, that is, in which to listen more and more closely to the voice of God, and to unmask the temptations that speak within each of us.”

It was a theme to which the Holy Father returned in his remarks to English-speaking pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. This Sunday, we reach the mid-way point of our Lenten journey. As we continue on our way, we keep our eyes fixed upon our goal, when we will accompany our Lord on the path to Calvary, so as to rise with him to new life. May Christ, the light of the world, shine upon you and fill you with his blessings!

The Pope also had words of encouragement for a group of Italian workers facing the prospect of a mass-layoff, promising prayerful support to them and their families in the hope that a solution to their difficult situation might be found.

Finally, Pope Benedict asked all the faithful for prayers in support of his upcoming voyage to Mexico and Cuba. Speaking in Spanish, he entrusted the pilgrimage, “to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is so dearly known in those blessed lands under the names of Guadalupe and Charity.”

Daily Gospel: Fifth Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of the Paralyzed man, March 18, 2012




Saint of the day: St Cyril of Jerusalem, Confessor.

First Letter to Timothy 5:24-25, 6:1-5.
The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgement, while the sins of others follow them there. So also good works are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 2:1-12.
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven", or to say, "Stand up and take your mat and walk"? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ he said to the paralytic ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’