The Address of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay to the Faithful on the occasion of Easter 2015

Why are you afraid…it is I myself!” (Luke 24:38-39)

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

The glorious feast of Easter is upon us again, bearing once more the glad tidings which, although they were first told two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, are always fresh: the news that Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!

After the sufferings, the outrage of the crucifixion, and the darkness of the tomb, a new dawn has appeared: the morning of the Resurrection, shining brighter than the sun, calling us all to profess that the Lord Jesus has truly suffered, truly been crucified and has truly died … but also, he has truly risen! The reality of the Resurrection is cause to celebrate the victory of love over evil, light over darkness, grace over sin, and life over death. It is the cornerstone in the edifice of Christian life and faith. As St Paul teaches us: “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith has nothing to it; you are still guilty of your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

The Risen Jesus appears to us, victorious over the grave, death, evil and sin, saying to us: “Why are you afraid…it is I myself!” These words are echoed through human history from the beginning until today, holding a special place in Holy Scripture, being found in both the Old and New Testaments. They reflect the call of love which first appeared in the creation, was renewed in the mystery of the incarnation, and reached its pinnacle in the crucifixion of Our Lord, his death and his Resurrection.

“Why are you afraid…it is I myself!” The Lord Jesus addresses these words also to us, we the children of the Maronite Eparchy in Australia. In these words we find a new beginning in our spiritual journey of faith. Let us put off the old man, the man of sin, selfishness, arrogance and death, and put on the new man, the man of grace, giving, humility and life. Let us leave the old identity and shroud: our shrouds of fear, hesitation, introversion, and even concealment – concealing sometimes our Maronite identity and our Christian faith. We can indeed overcome these fears, following the example of Mary Magdalene by kneeling down and saying: “Rabbouni! My teacher!” (John 20:16) … and then, like her, go quickly to spread the good news of the Resurrection to all the world.

The words of the Lord Jesus: “Why are you afraid…it is I myself!” are especially pertinent today for the children of the Eastern Churches, who are persecuted and tortured, especially the Christians of Syria and Iraq, who are hated only because of their faith in the Lord. On this Feast of the Resurrection, we implore the Risen Lord to strengthen them in their faith, and to allow them to stay secure in their ancestral lands and churches. We believe that their true witness to the Lord will gain for them the final victory over fear, oppression, and persecution. We ask the Lord to inspire the minds and consciences of the politicians and world leaders, so that they no longer resort to war, and to the killing of the innocent. We seek a return to the language of dialogue, to seeking the peaceful resolution of intractable conflicts. On this occasion of Easter, the Church and her people pray for the least and weakest of our brethren, especially children, women and the elderly. We beseech the Lord that he may awaken us all to our responsibilities towards them, so that we might assist and encourage them, protecting them from every kind of exploitation and mistreatment.

At Easter, we in the Australian Maronite Church live, in our spiritual and pastoral journeys, different dimensions of that hope which finds its wellspring in the Resurrection. The heartbeat of that journey is our active and promising youth, always thirsting for a deeper spirituality and the Word of Life. Today, on this Feast of Easter, we begin preparatory work, planning and readying ourselves, with registration throughout all our parishes, for the First Maronite Youth Convention to be held in our Eparchy, between 24 and 26 July 2015. All are called to encourage and assist our youth, especially to accompany them with your prayers for the success of the Convention, that it may be fruitful and successful.

Beloved, for you I pray, and with you I exalt the Risen Lord Jesus, praising him for his eternal existence in the Eucharistic sacrament. The Risen Christ goes before us leading our journey to a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1), where we shall all be united as one family, children of God the Father in truth and in spirit.

Let us then fearlessly follow him through this world which is filled with joy and sadness. Our faces, marked with both smiles and tears reflect the reality of our earthly lives. May our journey with Christ who rose from the tomb be a journey of hope, praise and joy. Amen.

Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!

Sydney, 5 April 2015 + Antoine - Charbel Tarabay 
Maronite Bishop of Australia

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