'O God, restore humanity to those who lost it’ by Patriarch Michel Sabbah

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Sunday 17.3.2019

The second Sunday of Lent

Lenten time is a time of repentance. Repentance is an attempt to turn away from sin and from doing evil to ourselves or to our neighbor. Repentance is a return to Almighty God. Human life on this Earth is a continual return to God. All our efforts, achievements, relations with others and worship are part of our journey back to God. God is close to us, watching over us, creating us at every moment. God is a merciful and loving father in all circumstances of our life, in our joys and sorrows.

All our life is a return to God. Our encounter with Him begins on this Earth and in this life, as much as we long and seek to meet with Him, until we reach the full encounter after this life, in the eternal light and joy of seeing God forever. Saint Paul says: “Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face” (1 Cor 13: 12)

God created us in His image and put some of His goodness in us. Like Him, He made us able to love. This is the perfection of man: to be the image of his Creator, good and loving all the creation as God is good and loving all His creatures, people and nature.

There is a big need of repentance to find back this capacity of goodness and love, for human life is vulnerable and exposed to all kinds of weaknesses and violations of its human nature, hence of the law of God. The world's wars, famines and diseases are a proof of that in the world and in our region. What we endure in Jerusalem in particular and all the Holy Land is a proof of that. Jerusalem is the city of God, the city of Redemption and Resurrection. Instead, for its inhabitants, it is now a city of death and hatred. It needs Redemption and Resurrection. It needs repentance and not more war. But it seems that the strong of this world have decided that repentance, love and justice, are forbidden in Jerusalem.

Monday 18.3.2019

Second week of Lent

In the second Sunday of Lent we read the Gospel of the Transfiguration:

“Now about eight days after this had been said, he took with him Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray. And it happened that, as he was praying, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became sparkling white. And suddenly there were two men talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah, appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they woke up and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He did not know what he was saying.

As he was saying this, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, 'This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him. And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen” (Lk 9: 28-36).

The event of the transfiguration is related in the Gospel to three other events: 1) the first, the miracle of the multiplication of the bread 2) the second, the question Jesus posed to his apostles: who do you say I am? 3) Third, Jesus foretells that he will suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

Tuesday 19.3.2019

The second week of Lent
The first event which happened eight days before the Transfiguration is the miracle of the multiplication of bread. In this miracle, we notice two ideas: first, Jesus is attentive to the need of the people around Him. He is the Word of God, the Son of the Living God, but He came on earth and became Man in order to have mercy and care for all people in their needs.

Jesus saw the crowds following Him in a wilderness. In the wilderness there was no food and they had none with them. Paying attention to them, He did not leave them hungry. He made the miracle. A person among the crowd had five loaves and two fish. Jesus blessed them and gave the multitude to eat.

The second idea is the following: The one who knows Jesus and walks in the way of Jesus, also cares for the needs of people. The one adds to one's worries the worries of brothers and sisters. A believer in Jesus Christ who teaches or prays, must come down from the heights of teaching and prayer, and see people in their daily reality, in their worries and needs.

The whole Christian community, if its faith in Jesus Christ is true, cares for one another, driven by the universal love of Christ and not by the spirit of sectarianism. Every believer in Jesus Christ, like Jesus Christ, cares for every human being, not only for people of one's own community.

Before the miracle, the apostles said to Jesus: "Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here”, Jesus replied: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Lk 9: 12-13).

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, do not distance yourself from an act of mercy. You are responsible for your brothers and sisters, for every person hungry, thirsty or oppressed, in any circumstance even when it seems that there is no possibility to help. Do not ask “How and from where can we find bread? We have no possibilities”. You are not alone. God is with you, when you help your brother or sister in need of bread or justice. And do not ask anyone who you are? You are supposed to know that they are human beings, creatures of God, and you must take care of them.

Wednesday 20.3.2019

The second week of Lent

In the second event associated with the Transfiguration, Jesus asks his apostles: Who do people say I am?

The Apostles answered what people were saying about Him: Some say you are Elijah, some John the Baptist or a great prophet. Then Jesus asked the apostles directly: "And you, who do you say I am?" Peter answered: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him: You have not received this from human knowledge but it is my Father who revealed it to you. (Luke 9: 18-20; Matthew 16: 13-20; Mark 8: 27-30).

Jesus began a new phase in the teaching of His apostles. So far, they knew like the multitudes which followed Jesus, that He was a great man and a wise teacher; God granted him supernatural power to heal and command the evil spirits. They also knew Him as the "Messiah" who was to come according to the concept of the people of their time, but they did not know Him as "the Son of the living God", the eternal Word of God.

John the Baptist had prepared the people to know Jesus Christ. He had said to them, "Someone will come after me; he is greater than me. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with spirit and fire...” (Luke 3:16; Matthew 3: 1sq; Mark 1: 1sq). All this was not as clear as the confession of Peter that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

In the Transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus showed the apostles His divine nature. After that, in order not to get lost with messianic earthly expectations of their time, He will begin to reveal to them the nature of His mission, the Redemption of humanity through His suffering, death on the Cross and then the Resurrection.

Thursday 21.3.2019

The second week of Lent

Jesus taught the apostles gradually who He was by His teachings and miracles. They finally believed that He was the Messiah but they did not realize what that meant. All the people at that time were awaiting the coming of the Messiah in the form of a temporal leader. So was the case of the two disciples of Emmaus (Luke 19:21), after Jesus' death on the Cross, who were returning to their village, having lost all hope and thinking that their dream of the Messiah named Jesus had failed (Luke 19:21). He was indeed arrested and put to death like other messiahs before him.

The apostles themselves had the same understanding of a temporal Messiah and an earthly kingdom. They even started to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest in the new kingdom (Mark 10: 35-45).

Jesus, at this point, told them clearly: He was not the type of Messiah they were dreaming of. He is not a Messiah who puts an end to Roman rule and establishes the new kingdom of Israel. He is the Savior of humanity from sin through suffering and death: “The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day. Then, speaking to all, he said, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me” (Lk 9: 22,23).

Friday 22.3.2019

The second week of Lent

“The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day. (Luke 9: 2)

Jesus unveiled to the apostles the nature of His mission: The leaders of the people, the scribes and the priests would persecute Him and hand Him over to the Roman governor to judge Him and put Him to death. He will suffer, be crucified and killed, then will follow the glory of the Resurrection. But before the glory of the Resurrection, there will first be the crucifixion and death.

This is a new reality for the apostles. It changed their vision and the idea they had about the Messiah: the glory of God will come upon earth, but not in earthly kingdoms and a great King -Messiah, not in armies and weapons but through the Cross. All, great and small, are called to bear the Cross and live the commandment of love in order to be filled with the power of the Resurrection. It is a new reality. God came to our earth as a man, similar to us in everything, except sin. Like us he also died. But since He is the Word of God, He is God and Man, therefore He triumphed over death and rose from the dead. By triumphing and rising from the dead, He gave every human being the power and the glory of the Resurrection if he/she accepts the new vision and the new way of life: The Cross and the commandment of love. Therefore, the Gospel also said: “Then, speaking to all, he said, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me”.

This is the Messiah whom the apostles had to know, learning that the greatest among them is their servant, and that they must preach to the world the new life with the power of their humility and the power of the Spirit in them.

After the Resurrection the apostles believed. After they were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, their vision and faith became whole and they proclaimed the new way of salvation throughout the world.

Saturday 23.3.2019

The second week of Lent

Jesus came with a new vision for human life. He said: “'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me”. What does that mean? Is the believer’s life only renouncement? Yes, in the sense that one takes his/her due and does not steal what is not his, by corruption or injustice. Renouncement means sharing with your brother and sister; it means also to renounce everything which is not yours, which is for your brother, your neighbor and for the common good. Renouncement is sharing with others what God has given to you, and respect of others’ rights.

Renouncement is to see God, Lord of all, owner of all, people and riches, and of all the earth. It is the fear of God and giving the “riches” of God to all who have a right to them, knowing that the needy and deprived are the first among those who have a right in God’s earth.

Renouncement is seeing God and the neighbor’s right and need. It is a love that overflows over all humanity.

Whoever does not want to renounce oneself will accumulate everything for oneself, what is one's and what is not. One does not see the neighbor as oneself, and that life is for all, not only for his/her ego. Refusing to renounce oneself, whether individual or responsible in the society, means "eating” the riches of others and trampling on their rights.

Whoever wants to become a builder of a new life must have new visions. In fact, we need a new Earth, free of corruption, free of weapons and death dealers, free of warlords, free from big or powerful states that prey on others, free of states that require the death of the other in order to exist.

We want a new Holy Land, no more a land of death and injustice. We want a new Jerusalem, a holy city in which one loves neighbor, neither takes away homes nor holy places, nor even imposes on the Holy City more death and hatred. The Holy Land needs a new life. Jerusalem needs a new life.

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