Homily of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay

Saturday 15 August 2015
on the occasion of the 
Feast of the Assumption, 
OLOL Harris Park

Honourable Ministers and Members of Parliament,
Your Excellencies the Consuls General,
Members of Local Councils,
Presidents of our Australian Lebanese associations,
Representatives of the media and other organisations,
Representatives of Maronite councils and organisations,
Reverend Monsignors, Members of the Clergy, and Religious Sisters, 
Distinguished guests,

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

1. When Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Mercy to commence on 8 December this year, he called our attention to Our Blessed Mother, and quoted from the Gospel reading , which we heard today. His Holiness said that Our Lady:

... treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation”. We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy. 

2. The Virgin Mary is indeed the Mother of God and the Mother of Mercy, for God is mercy, and mercy is a quality which leads us to God and makes us more Christ-like.

3. As we prepare for the beginning of the Year of Mercy, we need to experience the mercy of God in order to be able to practice it and spread it through our everyday actions. In order to experience the mercy of God, we should approach Him in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. There is an essential link between these two sacraments. Apart from the Eucharist, there simply is no greater gift that the Church can give us which is the gift of reconciliation. The Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ offered for the forgiveness of sins, “This is my body which will be given up for you... this is the cup of my blood... it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” 

4. When we have felt God’s compassion and forgiveness in these two great sacraments, and experienced his strengthening presence, we could then become messengers of his mercy and love to the world. This could be done through charitable work, acts of love, and small gestures of kindness. Our constant companion on this journey of receiving God’s mercy and bringing it to the world is, of course, Our Lady, Mother of Mercy. 

5. As such, and in our roles as messengers of God in this world, I wish to speak now about two important events: one at the level of our Maronite Church here in Australia and the second for the Universal Catholic Church.  These events aim to engage with our people and society, so that the light of Christ might shine everywhere.

6. First, allow me to mention the Maronite Youth Convention which we held in July this year, and which would not have been possible but for the selfless work of youth and clergy of our Diocese. More than three hundred of our Maronite youth came together for three days.

7. I am personally gratified that, with your generous assistance, we have brought our youth together from across this wide land, from Brisbane to Melbourne, to Adelaide and to Perth and back to Sydney. In coming together their eyes were opened to their identity in the faith and the potential for good which they possess. May they now come more and more to live and to spread their Christian values and the fruits of their Maronite heritage wherever they may be, in the workplace, at institutions of education, and in the family. 

8. So successful was the Convention, so serious were the youth in the pursuit of their faith that a decision was taken that the Convention should be held each two years. And on this night, I call on our young Maronites to start preparing for ARISE 2017.

9. The second significant engagement I wish to mention is the General Synod on the Family which will be held in Rome in October this year. Bishop Antoine Andary and I have been elected by the Maronite Bishops to represent our Maronite Catholic Church and to accompany His Eminence Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, our Patriarch, to participate in the Synod, a matter which is very humbling but also very challenging, as the challenges faced by the family today have never before confronted it.

10. The traditional family, as father, mother and children, is the natural cradle of humanity. A good family is the best provider of physical, mental and emotional health. It is the ideal nest in which to protect the weak and vulnerable members of our society. 

11. In this respect, I wish to talk about an important topic, concerning the family, which has been at the forefront of Australian politics recently: the redefinition of marriage. It is not a sign of wisdom to change the nature of marriage, and therefore of the family, to something incompatible with the sacrament of marriage which is the union before the altar of God of one man and one woman, of their own free will, for life.

12. It is of utmost importance that we always remember that the “Catholic tradition teaches that every human being is a unique and irreplaceable person, created in the image of God and loved by Him. Because of this, every man, woman and child has great dignity and worth, which can never be taken away. This includes those who experience same-sex attraction. They are people with dignity and must be treated with respect, sensitivity, and love.”  So when we speak about same-sex attraction, we do so with charity without attacking or disrespecting any person.  

13. Marriage between one man and one woman is the social unit which God has ordered for the birth and raising of children. In a joint statement issued by a number of Eastern Bishops and Muslim Leaders earlier this week, we urged Members of Parliament to consult with their constituents and respect their views on this matter. 

14. The statement also stated that “any amendment to the Marriage Act can be expected to unleash further changes in the nature of State-sanctioned marriage. We are all members of the one society. What affects one, affects the other... While people with the same sex attraction currently enjoy relationship equality, where they live in committed relationships and are cherished as people with dignity, we do not see why this has to be “marriage”. 

15. It is our firm belief that marriage should only remain between a man and a woman, as intended by God from the beginning of times. In protecting the sanctity of marriage, we would be upholding our Christian values, the very values on which this parish has been founded and has flourished over the years into the wonderful community that it is today. 

16. On this note, I praise and thank the beautiful work done by Msgr Shora Maree, the Parish Priest, assisted by all the priests, and in particular Fr Tony Sarkis, the Administrator. Their work would not be possible without the support of our parishioners. I thank all those who generously donate of their time and talents through the choir, and the various committees including the stewardship, children, youth, families, seniors, sodality and many others. You all contribute in wonderful ways and enrich your parish and honour Our Lady. 

17. This raises one practical matter, where some of you may be able to help us to honour Our Lady in a special way. The statue which crowns this Cathedral is in need of replacement. Unfortunately, the substance of which it is made is decaying, and if it is not replaced soon, it will damage the roof, causing even greater problems. For all the people of good will who would like to assist us in this regard, please contact the parish office or priests. This is an unusual opportunity to serve and to help us replace the statue of Our Lady which announces the presence of this Cathedral and its patron to all within view. 

18. On this holy evening, allow me to acknowledge and thank Tele Lumiere, the Christian network celebrating this year its Silver Jubilee, 25 years of its existence. Tele Lumiere/ Noursat perform a noble mission at the service of the Church and all the Christians in Lebanon, the Middle East and all around the world. We ask the Lord to bless the founders and every staff member, volunteer and benefactor who support this organisation in carrying the Good News of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 

19. In conclusion, let us never forget that God has cast down the proud and reserved special fountains of his mercy for the humble. Let us all pray to the Lord and in humility of heart beseech his mother on this great Feast of the Assumption. May our Eparchy be an ark of faith and salvation in a turbulent world. We remember especially our brothers and sisters yearning for peace in the Middle East. We pray for Lebanon and its people, that they may through the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, come together, as one people, rising above all what divides them, and rebuild their country and give it hope for a better future. 

20. Dearly beloved, may the Lord God bless you and your families, on this Holy Feast and every day of your lives. 




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