"... we witness campaigns rejecting our Christian teachings, and emptying them of all meaning..."- Bishop Tarabay
Message of Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay on the occasion of Easter 2019
And He Rose on the Third Day
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters of our Maronite Eparchy,
1. We hear the good news, on the morning of the third day, from the angel seated at the door of the tomb, announcing to the women: “He is not here ... He is risen, as He said!” (Matt 28:6) Easter is a glorious event and a great feast, the feast of all our feasts, and the focal point in the life of the Church and the faithful, because no liturgical celebration can take place without the presence of Christ, the Risen Lord who is glorified, and who became the firstborn of those who have fallen asleep.
2. The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the darkness of the tomb, victorious over death, evil and sin, is a call to all believers to no longer live beneath the shadow of the grave, in fear, doubt and hesitation, but rather to come forward and rejoice, together with the children of the light, in the luminous glory of the Resurrection.
3. However, some members of the Church today remain in the darkness of the tomb, in a state of fear, confusion and doubt, and are reluctant to publicly profess any faith and love for Our Lord. This is sometimes caused by errors and failures in the Church's witness to the Gospel. It is also caused by the vilification of the Church and its leaders and children by segments of Australian society. We also witness organised campaigns in schools and universities, rejecting the Gospel and our Christian teachings, and emptying them of all content and meaning. We also see it in novel legislation which contradicts sacred teachings or seeks to undermine the exercise of religious freedom. Some people are then made to feel embarrassed and fearful, repeating the words of Peter the Apostle in his moment of his weakness: “I do not know the man” (Matt 26:72).
4. The experience of death and doubt has accompanied humanity from the beginning until today. We feel the bitterness of death when someone dear passes on, or when suffering from a chronic illness that daily brings us face to face with our mortality. We also experience a kind of death when we fail at our work, or are subjected to oppression, betrayal, and emotional or social suffering.
5. Easter is now with us, and the angel of the Lord rolls away the stone from the door of the tomb, so that the light of the Resurrection shall once again shine upon us, banishing the darkness of death and granting us spiritual strength to go forth again in a life of faith. Repeating the words of the Maronite liturgy, we say “Jesus is risen, rejoice O Creation.” Those whose faith moved them to encounter Christ risen from the tomb, had their lives transformed from disappointment and frustration into a living joy and witness to the Resurrection. The experience of the two disciples heading to Emmaus is the best example of this. Similarly, the disciples’ meeting with Jesus after His Resurrection gave them every confidence and courage, planted in them good hope, and freed them from fear and doubt. They then went forth, bearing the good news of the Resurrection to all people and nations, despite persecution and suffering, risking their lives for the sake of the One whom they loved and in whom they believed, Jesus our Lord.
6. Easter thus becomes a feast which manifests the mysteries of faith and love in this personal encounter between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. This meeting is the foundation for following the Lord. It is the gateway through which we pass when truly bearing witness to His Resurrection. Without this encounter, our faith remains superficial and may not lead us to the desired end of salvation.
7. We pray together on this blessed feast, that we may each be true to our calling from God. Let us work together to reveal the truth, and to bring justice and peace to our society. Let us not rush to judge and condemn others before the facts are fully known. Jesus warned us, saying, "Do not judge, lest you be judged too" (Matt 7:1). As people of the Resurrection, we also pray that our only and absolute source of truth be Jesus Christ and his teachings. Any other news or stories coming from diverse sources should be examined and verified before being published and accepted as true.
8. The mission of evangelisation in the Church is a responsibility shared between the laity and consecrated men and women. This mission starts with heeding the call to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, and is fulfilled by following him and consciously living of the spirituality of the Gospel. To meet this call, we held the Maronite Diocesan Synod and launched the Year of Maronite Spirituality in our Eparchy. This programme aims to strengthen our faith, and to stir a spiritual and pastoral renewal. Faith is more than worship and doctrines, it is, rather, concretely living the Christian virtues, and choosing openness as a way of life. It is embodying a fraternal and human presence, alongside and amongst those who thirst for signs of love and hope.
9. Finally, we pray that the good news that Christ is alive and present, walking with us on the paths of life, may be a source of blessing, peace and joy to all. Because we are redeemed through hope, we faithfully repeat:
“Christ is risen ... He is truly Risen
And we are witnesses to that.”
+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia
Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019