"Christians should follow the example of Lord Jesus" Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah for Sunday April 16-April 22, 2017
Following is the weekly reflection of Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah for Sunday April 23-April 29, 2017:
We continue our meditation on Jesus Christ and we try to answer the question, namely who are the Christians and how should they behave? We said that the Christians should behave as believers in the Church and in the whole society. They live the life of all those in the region, full of calamities, death and wars that come from outside as well as internal wars. Who wants our destruction and death? Why are we unable to resist this destruction and death?
Here, in Israel and Palestine, the situation is the same situation of instability that is prevailing in the whole region. Once we have stability and terminate death in Jerusalem, the whole region will have stability.
In this reality, how do we live? A Christian life is life with all people. It is a life with all others, challenging death and searching for the human mind which seems to be lost. Humanity seems to be lost.
However, a Christian remains full of hope despite all that causes despair. A Christian bears the hope whose foundation is the “resurrection” and a power in every human being that is stronger than death.
The Christians look to Jesus, listen to Him in order to learn from Him, how to follow His example, and learn what contributions they should bring to the life of others.
We started meditating the Sermon on the Mount with the poor in spirit, and the meek who inherit the Earth. Today we continue with this proclamation of Jesus: "Blessed are those who mourn they shall be comforted" (Mt 5: 5). Those who mourn in Syria, Iraq and Egypt mother of martyrs, when and how will they be comforted?
We believe and proclaim that life and love are stronger than death. Yet death is so prevalent among us. Last week, we celebrated the day of Resurrection and the Lord's victory over death. Yet, death among us is so frequent. When will parents be comforted with the loss of their children? When will the Church--including the churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria--be comforted for the loss of their children? When will all the Arab countries be comforted? When will we be comforted here in Palestine by seeing the end of occupation, the end of all kinds of humiliations, the end of prisons?
O Lord, please answer those who beseech you. We know that your ways are not ours and your thoughts are not like ours. Lord, we believe, but we ask you to strengthen our faith.
The bereaved will be comforted. This is a promise from God. Affliction and suffering are a place where new life is formed. Affliction and difficulties in our personal life and our mutual relations, relatives and friends, and all the society, are a place where one is reborn.
God is faithful. This is His promise, namely the bereaved will be comforted.
But, for that to come true, God should enter our life and our visions. We allow our life to follow its normal path which leads to God, to a time when affliction will be changed into a time of joy, the time of difficulties into a time of founding life on the rock.
With God's promise and man's effort, one will be born again through one’s own efforts, through difficulties and obstacles, through the imposed death. Thanks to God's promise and man's effort, the afflicted will be comforted. The oppressed will walk towards freedom and dignity.
This is a mystery in God's work and his presence in human history. This is a mystery of a believer's effort and perseverance without his seeing the way.
This is also a mystery of the believers who believe in God and kill the people of God, a mystery of the leaders who think they are right and become killers, a mystery of leaders who speak of life and decide death for the region.
There is also the mystery in the possible change of events for the best, in the conversion of people from evil and their return to the good. For the last word is for Life.
Jesus also said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, they shall have their fill" (Mt 5: 6). The world is full of hungry people for the material bread. There are people who are satiated and others who are over-satiated. They waste food but there are also hungry people lacking their daily bread. Jesus spoke about this when He gave the commandment of love, a comprehensive commandment. What you love for yourself, do it for the other. Do you want for yourself a dignified life and daily bread? Do want the same thing for your brothers and sisters. Moreover, search for those who are in need and make them self-sufficient by having a dignified life and bread. As God has given you, share with others what is God's, share and sustain others. Help others have as you have. You are a member in a faith community. You cannot be satiated and leave your brother hungry. You are a member in the same humanity. You cannot be satiated and leave your brother hungry.
Then, the faith community will praise God. This very praise will be perfected by brotherly love. Praying to God is useless at a time when your brothers or sisters are in need of help that you do not extend. Your prayer is thus in vain. Prayer is perfected with the love of others, all brothers and sisters. Your prayer will not be heard on Sundays, feast days and the joy of the feast unless associated with love for brothers and sisters and with fulfilling the needs of the needy.
Hunger for material needs is available in our society. Among us some are satiated. Some are wasting food, but some are hungry lacking daily bread.
In order not to keep anyone in need, not only in the church community but in the whole society, leaders work hard and the businesspeople work hard as well. It is not allowed to have people satiated or extravagant while others are hungry. It is not allowed to have people in need, without having any source of income. Moreover, what is needed is more than almsgiving or donations. What is needed is a new economic structure. Money is there, and businesspeople are responsible. What is needed is a new structure which takes money out of its egoistic nature and narrow circles in order that all make profit. Money is there and people who are able to organize it scientifically are there; the same human dignity is there with people of money. So what is lacking to have people out of need?
We can provide everyone with daily bread. We can share and we can go beyond almsgiving and donations. We can have a new structure in economics, able to provide everyone with dignified life so that no one remains in need.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, they shall have their fill" (Mt 5: 6). In this verse, Jesus did not speak about hunger of the body but hunger for "uprightness". What is uprightness? It is every good action. It is every action which contributes to life, both material and spiritual. It is goodness as God's goodness. It is caring for all bodily need, and by responding to all spiritual needs. It is seeking truth that is God.
Those who seek uprightness, those who do good will have their fill. To do good is to love oneself, to love others as God created them, and to love God. Hunger for uprightness is hunger for God. The one who seeks God will find Him, for God said that He is very close to anyone who calls Him.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, they shall have their fill".
Hunger and thirst for uprightness liberate human beings from burdens. Uprightness bears in itself its retribution.
Our societies, in their political instability and in their deadly circumstances, do impose humiliation on people in need of others who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness. Who knows, perhaps the killers, the oppressors and those who humiliate others, will resort to reason. Good is superfluous. It overflows over everything around like rain and sun, and reaches the good and the bad.
We need people whose good deeds will spread around on all especially among governors and leaders. We need not people hungry and thirsty for authority or for oppressing or humiliating others. We need hunger for uprightness. It is a need in all humanity, a need of every young or old human being.
Here, in Israel, uprightness is ending the occupation, freeing prisoners, and maintaining equality among people. In Palestine, uprightness is the need of rulers who provide services and maintain the welfare of people rather than who focus on personal interests. We need rulers who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness. This is our need.