My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ;
The Lord Reigns Clothed in Majesty, Alleluia! This Sunday, the Lord appears to Thomas and the Twelve apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem. This Sunday hope and mercy are renewed in the hearts of the frightened apostles.
This week Jesus comes into the room as the doors were locked. He comes in his flesh and in his full divinity telling Thomas: “You have seen me and you believed, blessed are those did not see yet they come to believe."
This event in the life of Jesus after his glorious and splendid resurrection from the dead, is the key of trust that Christ left for all the faithful in the reward of the faith based on the solid and undebatable event of his rising from the dead. Saint Paul said: “If Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith could have been in vain!”
Now it is the time in which the church in the world assumes all the glory of the Risen Lord!
The church, for centuries challenged by Satan and his army in order to deny the Resurrection of Christ as the stepping stone for Faith, Hope and Love in Christ, did not once give up the proclamation of the Good News of the Incarnation and Resurrection of the Lord. We call this: the Mystery of Faith.
However, recently, through the ugly waves of materialism, atheism, secular capitalism, communism, and lately religious terrorism, Satan again is raising the war if end of times against the followers of Christ.
What did Christ do to respond to the death and murder of millions of faithful around the world? He taught his followers in the church to evangelize more, to forgive more to lead, in Mercy, all people back to God. This is the essence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Divine Mercy devotion: to take more on himself the suffering of the Church, Christ opened the wound of his Heart and water and blood gushed forth from it as a sign of Divine Mercy to all.
We, as the parish of Saint Rafka in Denver, have been blessed to carry in us both the spiritual and the cultural heritage of Christ. We come from the Holy Land. Peter was our first bishop as the Church of Antioch. Paul and Barnaba, for three years instituted their first teachings in the church of Antioch, our roots are all there. The whole of Christianity recognizes in us that Antioch according to the Acts of the Apostles was the first place where the Disciples of Christ were called: "Christians". Our liturgy is still alive today and until Christ's Glorious Return. In our liturgy, we preserve the Syro-Aramaic language of Christ and provide a physical sign for Christ's historical existence as the "Son of Man", who is the "Son of God".
This heritage today is perfectly lived in the presence in our midst of our beloved Bishop Elias Zaidan, the Bishop of the Eparchy of our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. This heritage is today witnessed and shared by the larger Catholic mother Church. Consequently is it an honor to receive in our midst on this New Sunday also called "Sunday of Divine Mercy", his Excellency Archbishop Samuel Aquila, the Archbishop of Denver.
The Maronite Church has been always a bridge between the East and the West. A vehicle towards unity and peace amongst the children of the church from all traditions. This is why we welcome in our midst today and from time to time leaders from the Mormon church and from the evangelical church traditions.
Today is a big day for Saint Rafka church community. We have grown and continue to grow. We have dreamed closer to one another and to God in holiness and active life as parishioners. We are learning now how to open more to embrace people who need a place to pray. Amongst us live members of Communities which are the oldest in the Judeo- Christian Faith inside the Roman Empire and beyond it at the time of Christ. We are so honored and have found spiritual favor as in our midst pray with us people from the Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Orthodox, Coptic, Greek Melkite, Armenian, Roman, Evangelical and non denominational traditions. The Divine Mercy of Christ is what gathers all of us.
Our church that now celebrates its tenth year anniversary with our shepherd and father, his Excellency Bishop Elias Zaidan, also begins a new phase of its existence that goes beyond saving its existence through the good financial leadership and pastoral leadership of the successive groups of councils and stewardship committees. Today, our church is more cognizant of its mission and role to gather the youth and to insure their education to be of holiness and love for the church and for one another. We now know that our church has to pick up its wonderful history and present it as the legacy for the future.
Our church therefore is part of the glorious history of the Maronite Church in the United States. We don't only build churches but we evangelize and bring hope to the broken hearted. We not only bring church to serve emigrants and people of good will, we share with the local Christian community the heritage and the fragrance of the Saints of our church. Saints like Saint Rafka, Sharbel, Hardini, Brother Steven, Father Yaqoub Haddad and others. These are saints, who in America, are keeping the Light of the East shining in holiness, in hope, in prayer and in acts of mercy.
We now welcome NAM: the National Apostolate of Maronites in our midst. Even though our convention is set to take place in next December 1-3- 2017, we are so glad and proud to welcome Mr Mike Naber, the Executive Director of NAM.
The purpose of NAM is to advance the Maronite way of living under the prospect of Beit Maroun or the Holy family of Saint Maroun. The National Apostolate of the Maronites was a direct response of the true first Maronite founding Archbishop in the United States. The late Archbishop Frances Zayek. He saw in NAM the order of Saint Sharbel and for the Laity and the implementation of Pope Saint John the 23rd, who, while assigning Archbishop Francis M Zayek
as the first Maronite Bishop in the West to go to Brazil in 1962, told him: “The Maronite church, its liturgy, history, Saints and its people are a treasure. This treasure does not pertain to the Maronites alone. But it must be shared with the Universal church. Go therefore, to the west who now is falling in dark age of materialism, atheism and in lack of faith. Be a sign of revival of the faith, hope and love inside the mother church."
NAM does much to support the Maronites and Maronite parishes across the country. The relationship should be mutual. With Mr. Mike here in our parish, I am providing an opportunity to the Parish to learn more about NAM and see the benefits of NAM and, as a result, it would be great to invest in NAM to grow a stable relationship with NAM to grow the Parish as well as share Saint Rafka church with the United States. What we share is Saint Rafka's talents, time, and treasure.
Today, we welcome our bishop and we pledge to be the witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ until his Second Coming in full glory to destroy all evil and to judge all Nations of the world!
Christ is Risen
Christ is truly Risen!
Fr Andre Mahanna