Homily of Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay /Feast of St Maroun Vigil Mass

Homily of Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay

Feast of St Maroun Vigil Mass

8 February 2024, 7pm, St Maroun’s Cathedral, Redfern

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“A voice came from heaven which declared: “I have glorified My Name, and I shall glorify it again.” (John 12:28)

It is indeed our calling to glorify the name of the Lord again and again. It is in fact our life’s purpose. God sends us strength and encouragement, but it is also through his witnesses and saints like St Maroun, whose feast we celebrate tonight in this Cathedral bearing his name, to give us examples of the spiritual life and how faith, hope, and love, can triumph over all the temptations of the world and its trials.

Tonight’s Gospel is also teaching us that – to be able to glorify the name of the Lord – we must live our faith in him every day and at the same time we must die to false self-love, to pride, and to vanity. Jesus Himself would give us the ultimate example, of passing from this world with the intention of winning salvation for us through His passion, death, and resurrection.

In a similar way, St Maroun left the world of meetings and greetings, events and occupations, in order that, dying to the world, he might bear great spiritual fruit.

It has been a full and remarkable year since we last celebrated the great Feast of our Father St Maroun. In that time, our community has been very active and very dynamic to celebrate the Jubilee Year, which has marked the life of our Eparchy and the Maronite people for many years to come. It was a time to thank the Lord and to rejoice in our Maronite identity; and so many expressed to me just how proud they are to be Maronites. We have much for which to give thanks to God. The visit of His Beatitude and Eminence, Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai to our shores, and the celebration of the Solemn Jubilee Mass with him, offering worship and praise to the Lord, filled our hearts with prayerful joy.

Since the feast of St Maroun last year, just as there have been joys, there have been challenges and changes in the world around us, and in our lives.

  • Some of those with whom we have long rejoiced on this life, have gone to their eternal rest. We hold their memory dear, and we pray for them.
  • New members of our Maronite family have come into the world and have been baptised. More than 1600 baptisms and confirmations are recorded in our parish registers for 2023.
  • Some have come to the church to be married as called by God from the beginning of creation: a man and a woman He created them! Our registers show around 400 marriages in the past year.
  • We are grateful to the Lord for blessing our eparchy with vocations; we ordained 11 men last year: 3 priests, 3 deacons and 5 subdeacons. We also have 3 seminarians studying to become priests and some of them are with us tonight serving the Mass. On this note, I also warmly welcome the first year students of the Good Shepherd Seminary and their Director, Fr Dominic Nguyen.
  • It has been a full year, a year of grace and growth, of new beginnings and new accomplishments, such as the opening of the Our Lady Mercy Place the new aged care centre adjacent to Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, in Harris Park, and I was very pleased to welcome its first resident 3 weeks ago.

And this year 2024 has been announced the Year of Prayer in our Maronite Eparchy as declared by His Holiness Pope Francis to prepare for the 2025 Jubilee Year “Pilgrims of Hope”. The focus for our Eparchy is going back to the Apostles’ request when they said to Jesus; “Lord, teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1-4).

We must therefore always, but now more than ever, make the prayer of our minds the prayer of our hearts. We should pray without ceasing, as St Paul teaches us, we shall pray for our families, for the family of our Church, for our friends, our neighbours, and not to forget those who may have hurt us – for to pray for them is harder – and yet, it is all the more meritorious for that.

We especially pray for our children growing in a world that challenges the values and faith instilled in them in their parishes and by their parents. We refuse any attempts to expose them to gender ideologies beyond their years and contrary to their faith-based values. Here, I call on the Government reminding them that parents should always have the first and final say in what is taught to their children in schools, whether private or public, and should thus have the right to seek exemption from any teachings not aligned with their values and faith.

On this feast, let us also continue our prayers for our Patriarch and the global Maronite Church, the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church, that it may continue to be a true witness to the faith of Saint Maroun, and the voice of truth and wisdom in Lebanon and beyond. We unite ourselves to our beloved Patriarch and the Maronite Bishops calling for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and the Holy Land, and for a just and sustainable peace in this sacred part of the world. We also echo their call that Lebanon, and especially South Lebanon, be spared from these hostilities, so as not to purposely expose civilians to the atrocities of this war.

Let us also pray for our Eparchy here in Australia and Oceania. This year, our focus shall be on planning and opening for new parishes, especially in the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand, our closest neighbour. I am pleased to reveal that the Golden Jubilee relics of saints will be visiting New Zealand in the last week of April this year.

As we continue to grow and expand our boundaries, we keep our focus on our Pastoral Priorities 2021-2026. To ensure we are better able to serve our communities as they grow, we are also implementing a new data management system in our parishes to ensure we have a centralised and accessible system of records.

Dear friends, before I conclude, I extend my deep gratitude to the Dean of the Cathedral, Father Geoffrey Abdallah, for his dedication and love to the Maronite liturgy. I also wish Fr Maroun El Kazzi a happy feast day.  To the parish teams and committees, to the entire St Maroun’s parish community, thank you for gathering us here this evening. I also thank the Maronite organisations especially the Maronite Catholic Society and the Maronite Ladies of the Gospel.  A special thank you to our Sodalities coming from different parishes to be together as one community on the feast of our spiritual father, St Maroun.

In closing, let us remember the Gospel we have heard tonight proclaimed: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.” (John 12:26)

Let us serve and follow God by keeping our Maronite traditions and our liturgy alive; so that the seeds planted by our spiritual Father St Maroun may continue to grow and bear fruit for generations to come. Let us learn them, let us practice them, let us share them, and let us celebrate them.

I wish you all – especially those bearing the name Maroun – a very blessed Feast. Amen.