Patriarch Sabbah: 'Old Testament prophets prepared the way for the coming of Christ, the Savior'

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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-I

First reading of Prophet Isaiah:
A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from his roots.
2 On him will rest the spirit of Yahweh, the spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh:
3 his inspiration will lie in fearing Yahweh. His judgement will not be by appearances. his verdict not given on hearsay.
4 He will judge the weak with integrity and give fair sentence for the humblest in the land. He will strike the country with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips bring death to the wicked.
5 Uprightness will be the belt around his waist, and constancy the belt about his hips.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them.
7 The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like the ox.
8 The infant will play over the den of the adder; the baby will put his hand into the viper's lair.
9 No hurt, no harm will be done on all my holy mountain, for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea.
10 That day, the root of Jesse, standing as a signal for the peoples, will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious (Isaiah 11: 1-10).

The prophecy describes the “new time” which begins after the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God. A new time in which the spirit of God will prevail,
“the spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and fear of God”.

It is a time in which the ”new born will judge the weak with integrity and give fair sentence for the humblest in the land”. There will be no more people oppressed, neither oppressor. It will be the time of righteousness, defined by the following symbols:

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like the ox.The infant will play over the den of the adder; the baby will put his hand into the viper's lair”.

In all creation, there will be redemption, and transformation into goodness. Also “humans” will be redeemed and transformed. There will be no more hurt or injustice.

This new time has come true for many who have adhered to the teachings of the new born Jesus Christ, and silently live and infuse love in humanity. But also, in many the Redemption did not take place. In humanity, many evils are still present: wars, colonization, famines and diseases. In the land of the Nativity, there is military occupation and soldiers continue to humiliate and to kill.

Yet the time of Christmas is the time of promise for all humanity, the time of hope. There will come a day when the hymn of angels will come true: glory to God in the highest and peace to man on earth, even in our own land, the land of the Incarnation and Redemption. It is a peace which will be made by everyone. The final word will be to goodness.

There will come a time when "No hurt, no harm will be done on all my holy mountain, for the country will be full of knowledge of God”.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-II

“Let the desert and the dry lands be glad, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom… Let it burst into flower, let it rejoice and sing for joy. … Say to the faint-hearted, 'Be strong! Do not be afraid”. (Isaiah 35: 1-2.4).

It is a call to joy. But first, we have to listen to the call to repentance. We reach joy when we repent.

The call to joy is a call addressed to all those who are afraid, to all the weak and the oppressed. Our time is full with them. To them, the Prophet says: “Be strong! Do not be afraid”. God is coming. He will restore justice among people.

It is also a call to the powerful and oppressors: Don't weaken, and do not abandon yourselves to the power of evil in yourself. Clean your hearts and your hands from the blood of peoples you shed all over the world, here in the region of the Middle East, and here in Israel and Palestine, in the Holy Land. To those also the Prophet says: Repent, in order to rejoice. Joy does not come from military victories, neither by destroying peoples. Repent before God, you strong and powerful, wash your hands and hearts from all tyranny and rebellion against man and God. Share in the universal joy of all creation, in order to be able to share the joy of Christmas.

“And through it will run a road for them and a highway which will be called the Sacred Way; the unclean will not be allowed to use it; He will be the one to use this road, the fool will not stray along it (Isaiah 35: 8).

There will be a “Sacred Way”, a way of God, a way of justice, peace and equality. God's sacred way is for all, in it no ne oppresses anyone, no one is higher that anyone, but all see God, and see His light and love in all their brothers and sisters.

The question for the powerful and the oppressors: Do you want to enter the Sacred Way of God?

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-III

“All humanity is grass and all its beauty like the wild flower's. The grass withers, the flower fades … but the word of God remains for ever” (Isaiah 40: 6-8).
In Christmas time, the Prophet invites us to reflect on the reality of man, calling on the great and the small, especially those who think of themselves to be powerful and oppressors, God calls them, as he calls us all, to reflect on the truth of man.

Christmas time is a time of joy. It is also a time of deep reflection, what is man and what God has given to him. He created him, followed him with his love, sent the prophets to teach him what he is. On one hand, he is nothing, like the flower of the field, it flowers and fades, on the other hand, he is big because God made him great, an calls him to eternity. Man's power is ephemeral; the Word of God is forever.

Man's power makes death, destroys the Earth. God's love makes life and keeps man.

If the unjust powerful could re-examine themselves, in Christmas time, if they could celebrate Christmas with repentance, ceasing their oppression and making justice in our region and in Palestine. Today, Christmas is many small lights in our roads and in the streets of the world, and thousands of trees are lit and adorned: those are a desperate appeal on man, on "the death makers” to stop planting death where God has created life.
If each of us in front of the light of Christmas, in the joy of his home and in the silence of his church, could remove from himself all that opposes the joy of Christmas… if he can recover his full humanity by renewing his full love for all his brethren…if soldiers carrying death weapons can realize that Christmas message is a message of life, not death, and love, not hatred…

This is Christmas, a reflection on man and God: “The grass withers, the flower fades … but the word of God remains for ever”.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-IV

In the first reading (Is 40: 25-31) today, Prophet Isaiah tells us “Those who hope in God will regain their strength, they will sprout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire” . In the Gospel, Jesus tells us: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11: 28).

Christmas time is a time of hope. Hope is born in times of difficulties and expectation. We all hope and wait for better times. No matter how much you have, no much how powerful people are tyrants and oppress others, all hope for a change, for better. The oppressed and the poor wait and hope in the goodness of God, and His power to take away all evil imposed upon them. The oppressor also waits for better times, when he will be free from his hidden fear, because he knows that because of his injustice towards others he created enemies and filled himself with fear of the unknown avenger.

We, the simple and small, we wait first for our salvation from our own evil in ourselves. We believe that God is good and merciful, he renews our strength and supports us in our journey to him. We want to reach perfection, as Jesus told us, in our soul, in our human dignity and freedom; we will not allow anyone to impose his evil upon us, neither will we allow our own evil to remain in ourselves. God created us in His image. Therefore, our hope is to achieve this image through all our expectations on this earth.

As we wait to be freed from all burdens accumulated on us along the way, we hear Jesus calling us: "“Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”. It is a call that supports our hope. With his grace, his infinite power, we will acquire enough power to liberate ourselves from all evil in ourselves or imposed upon us by others

Christmas is a time of hope. Hope is renewed life and achievement of perfection day after day, among all difficulties and challenges.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-V
“I, your God, I grasp you by your right hand; I tell you, 'Do not be afraid, I shall help you” (Is 40: 13). These words were told in a definite time in history. But the Word In the first reading (Is 40: 25-31) today, Prophet Isaiah tells us that God is not limited to any time. It is said for all times and all peoples: “Do not be afraid, I shall help you”. Our Lord Jesus Christ used to tell his disciples as well: Do not be afraid. Do not fear, even if you are a little flock. Even, if persecutors or oppressors become multiple and powerful, do not be afraid.
Christmas message is hope. It is also: ‘Do not fear’, because it is faith in God and His infinite love for all His creation. God does not fail anyone. In all history and in our days as well, and to every one of us, God says: Do not fear. Be active, do what must be done, and you will find life and freedom.

The joy of Christmas cannot be limited to decorations. It must be a permanent situation in the soul. God dwells in the soul, where God dwells, there is goodness, love, strength, and everyone knows his brother and sister, because he is full with the light of God. With God all fear disappears.

Jesus, in the Gospel of today, speaks about John the Baptist who was the last prophet in the Old Testament. He says: "Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm”. The Kingdom of Heaven, kingdom of truth, goodness and happiness, requires strong people, strong by their love, not by the power of oppression or murder.

These words are addressed to us in Christmas time, in order to know that the joy of Christmas is conquered by a life full of love and strength, and imposes on the believer who celebrates Christmas efforts that may be strenuous. It imposes on him efforts to search for every brother in need, and to search and work for justice and peace. Overcoming evil, in all its forms requires people who are strong, who go through adversity and do not weaken. They remain strong by what God gives them and by what He calls them to.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-VI

In the first reading (Is 48: 17-19) today, Prophet Isaiah says: “Thus says God, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am Yahweh your God and teach you for your own good, I lead you in the way you ought to go. If only you had listened to my commandments! Your ‘peace’ would have been like a river and your saving justice like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48: 17-18).

At Christmas time, we reflect on this word of the Prophet: "If only you had listened to my commandments! Your ‘peace’ would have been like a river”. We reflect first on our personal life. We say to ourselves: If we listened to the Word of God, to all that he inspired us to do, how and where we would find the perfection of our life, that our perfection is only in God. From Him we will learn to love, know and be strong. If we have listened, we would have found our happiness, while going through difficulties. If we listened and sought “first the Kingdom of God”, we would have come closer to God and to all our brothers and sisters. In Christmas time, we see the child born, the Word of God Incarnate, a man among us men, and for our sake. We see and we say: God increase our faith, increase light and love in us.

“If only you have listened...” This word is also addressed to the powerful and the murderers of peoples. If only they would listen, peace would be like a river. Peace today in the entire Middle East is civil wars, displaced people, dead, and blood. And in Palestine, peace is military checkpoints, raids on or destroyed houses, prisoners, and humiliation of the human being. This is the ‘river of peace’ in the land of peace today.

What is important is the question addressed to us, simple people and to the great and responsible leaders: Why we did not listen to the word of God, and prevented peace? In fact, all these evils that we experience and suffer from require everyone in Christmas time, to revise and ask himself: what can be done to people and before God, so that peace will come in our land.

If we listened, we'd know what to do? We, simple and small, we ask ourselves. But also the powerful of this world should ask themselves. Lord tell the great and the war-makers, especially those who will come to pray before you in this Christmas time, tell them, Lord, to ask themselves when will they stop selling their weapons to us? When will they stop selling us death itself?

Christmas time is a time of peace, a time to learn how to make it. Only by God we will be taught how to make peace. May who is able to listen do listen to God.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2019

Second Sunday before Christmas-VII

The Gospel of today (Matthew 17: 10-13) speaks on Prophet Elijah and John the Baptist: “The disciples put this question to him, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' He replied, 'Elijah is indeed coming, and he will set everything right again; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognize him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of man will suffer similarly at their hands. 'Then the disciples understood that he was speaking of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17: 10-13).
In the letter to the Hebrews we read: “At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the ages” (Hebrew 1: 1-2).

All the Old Testament prophets were sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of Christ the Savior. John the Baptist came just before Jesus. He preached and showed Him to the people. Some believed. Many did not believe, especially the official bodies and human frameworks that represented religious authority.

People believed that the prophet Elijah, who was taken to heaven alive, would return to Earth, before the coming of Christ. In the verses that we read, Jesus explicitly said that Elijah is John the Baptist, who came and many did not know him: “I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognize him but treated him as they pleased”.

In these verses Jesus uncovers a mystery in sacred history: On the one hand God sent the prophets, and on the other hand He allowed many not to listen to them. "They did not recognize him but treated him as they pleased;" As they did with the prophets, they will do with Jesus himself: “The Son of man will suffer similarly at their hands".

These verses are placed before our meditation at Christmas time. They invite us to be aware of the extent of rejection and acceptance in ourselves, for the grace of God given to us. Christmas time is a time of grace, love and peace. How much acceptance for all this in us and how much rejection? Let us look at ourselves, and purify ourselves, so that the joy of Christmas be firm in us.

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