Patriarch Sabbah: "The Word became flesh, He lived among us”

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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2019

Third week before Christmas

“This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 18-21).

On this Sunday, we reflect on the mystery of our Lady the Virgin Mary, the “full of grace”, the Immaculate: “She has conceived what is in Her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son and you must name him Jesus, because He is the one who is to save His people from their sins.”

With the Virgin Mary, we meditate on the mystery of God’s plan of salvation. God created man in His image and likeness. Then man sinned, but God did not abandon him. He sent his Eternal Word to save him from sin and death. He gave man the power to return to his original being, "in the image of God."

Each of us knows how far away we are from this image. But God gave us a new power to restore our first splendor, to be "in the image of God", able to love, able to be strong, in our actions, words and thoughts. God gave the Virgin Mary to be the first human in this new era of salvation. He preserved Her immaculate from all sin, as He made her mother of the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ.

At the time of Christmas, we look at the Virgin Mary, chosen by God, to be the mother of the Word of God and of all humanity. Eve, the first mother of humans, sinned. Sin became part of our human heritage. The Virgin Mary was sanctified and preserved from every sin. She is the mother of God and of all the living. By her son, the Eternal Word of God, every human being became able to love and to live his life, being aware that he is "in the image of God”.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2019

Third week before Christmas

“Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third.

“Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way.

“Finally he sent his son to them thinking, "They will respect my son." But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance”. So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?' They answered, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time.” (Matthew 21: 33-41)

This parable applies on all those upon whom God has bestowed His grace and who have not accepted it. It applies to humanity in general, which rebelled against God, and moved away from Him. It applies in particular to the listeners of Jesus in His time: God chose them, sent to them Jesus Christ, and before that He sent prophets, the last of whom was John the Baptist, and they did not care about any of them. John the Baptist himself was killed by King Herod. Jesus described Jerusalem at that time as the murderer of the prophets. (Luke 13: 34)

The parable applies to the time of Jesus and his listeners and to their religious leaders. God offered them much and they refused to accept. But it also applies to each of us, when we reject God's grace that He gives us, to enable us to return to our original goodness: each one of us is the vineyard that must give good fruit; instead, we developed forces of evil in us. We too we may become murderers of our prophets. Our prophets today are our brothers and sisters. Every brother is the prophet to his brother: he shows us, our love for him shows us the way to God. Together we can see God.

Before Christmas, this parable brings us back to ourselves to see how we should be and how we should not be. We should be the image of God; we should be listeners to God, when He sends His Word, ad when he sends us our prophets, who are our brothers and sisters, to show us the way.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2019

Third week before Christmas

“In his days uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty, till the moon is no more.

For He rescues the needy who calls to him, and the poor who has no one to help.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the needy from death.

From oppression and violence he redeems their lives, their blood is precious in his sight” (Ps 71/72: 7.12-14).

These verses from Psalm 71, express prayer, suffering, and hope that there will be better days, in which "uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty”, and in which God “saves the needy from death” because “their blood is precious in his sight”

These are verses for Christmas time, and for the time of war in which we are. A time to reflect on what man is, on his ability to stray, to be unjust, to kill, and to respond to death with death. It is a mystery that human history is full of wars and death. One kills himself when he kills his brother. Whatever one hates, discriminates, considers the other as enemy, the one who kills, kills himself first. Although man is able to be good, to love, to build with his brother a better world, together they can make Earth a paradise, a dwelling place for God and man.

“Precious in His sight”, all together, the oppressed and the oppressor. All are walking towards God, one knowing where he goes, the other ignoring, who he is and where he goes. “Precious in His sight" every human being. Christmas time is a call for man to stop and think about the truth of himself. "Precious in God's eyes" because he is in the image of God. He is great by what God has made him and given and great for his ability to love. He becomes small, when he turns his ability to love into energy of hatred and death. Christmas time is a time of light for man to see what he is and to return to himself and his Lord.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2019

Third week before Christmas

“In his days uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty, till the moon is no more.

For he rescues the needy who calls to him, and the poor who has no one to help" (Ps 71: 7).

Christmas time is a time of hope. No matter how hard is life, no matter how cruel and wild man may be, there will come days when he will return to himself and to the truth of his humanity. Jesus Christ repeatedly told His disciples that they will face hard times, adding: blessed are those who persevere until the end. (cf. Luke 21:19)

Adversity is everywhere. We are in distress and others are in distress. We're not alone to suffer. The whole region is facing more difficulties than we are. The world's sufferings are so many. It is good, it is right to have a comprehensive vision of humanity. Many may be happy with their life. Many may be not. Whatever the conditions of our own life, we have to be humans, the size of humanity, we rejoice with those who rejoice, we will “be sad with those in sorrow” (Rom 12: 15).

Some might say: I don't suffer. I do not see where the tragedy we are in. I'm satisfied with the situation as it is. This is also possible. There are people whose lives are their size, a prison cell at their size, in which they don't care about other people and do not share their pain: they don't hear the screams and tortures of prisoners, they don't see those who are killed every day, they don't hear about houses being destroyed. These, their lives are surrounded by the walls of suffocating selfishness. A normal human life is a sharing with the life of all our brothers and sisters, in joy or suffering.

This is also prayer at Christmas time, listening to all our society, especially to those who suffer. Listening to the pain of all humanity, our resistance to our pain becomes a sharing in the cry of all people who demand their dignity, freedom and daily bread.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2019

Third week before Christmas

“In his days uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty, till the moon is no more.

For he rescues the needy who calls to him, and the poor who has no one to help" (Ps 71: 7).

Christmas time is a time of hope. A Christian does not lose hope, because he believes in God, who is good and almighty. God has the last word, whatever the reality we live. A murderer of his brother cannot have the last word. War cannot be the last human word.

"Uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty ". Struggle will still remain on the ground and in the souls. But true strong people will appear one day, with the right power; they will impose righteousness and begin a new time, in which “uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty”.

The Christian believes in God and that is why he hopes. God Almighty can inspire peace and justice. That is why the Christian is patient and works tirelessly, for what he hopes, for righteousness and peace, to remove all humiliation imposed by a "weak" tyrant on his brother.

Hope is the life of a human being in suffering, who puts everything before God and implores. God hears and responds. With hope, the believer puts his trust in God, and in what he himself can do. He prays and listens to what God says, and God says: peace, justice, equal human dignity for all.

“How blessed are those you instruct, o God, whom you teach by means of your law” (Ps 94: 12)

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2019

Third week before Christmas

“In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.

“Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, 'Zechariah, do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother's womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him…” (Luke 1: 5-25)

In today's Gospel, we read and reflect on God's mercy to Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, who were blessed by God and had a son in their old age, John the Baptist who had a special mission, to prepare the way before Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:5-25)

In our prayer, in Christmas time, we can also think of our mission in this life. We also are witnesses to Jesus Christ and have to show him in our actions, our words and our attitudes. We do that if we live the commandment of love which he gave us. This means we go looking for every brother and sister in difficulty and, together we overcome all difficulties. Our mission is to give hope, to build and to reform wherever reform is needed.

At Christmas time, don't say: Times are difficult. Don’t say: oppression is everywhere, we have to deal with wild people, and no one cares. Don't say: We are astray. Do not accuse and say: there is weakness, ignorance or corruption. Say: we have to live. We are facing moments of death, we have to make them moments of life. How? When we love as God loves, the love which is powerful as the Creator’s, which is stronger than all evil, oppression or corruption, then we know, our love will make us know how to transform death, corruption and indifference into life.

Start with yourself and purify your mind from every kind of death form the past which accumulated in you. Free yourself. Look with new eyes. Know that if you are one or one thousand or a million, your mission will be the same. It does not depend on numbers. It depends on your ability to understand yourself, your ability to see your mission, and your ability to see the other as brother: with him only, you can carry your mission.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2019

Third week before Christmas

The Gospel of the Annunciation.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

“He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favor! The Lord is with you. She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favor. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end.'

“Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.'

“Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.' And the angel left her.” (Luke 26: 38)

Today, we read and meditate the Gospel of the Annunciation. It is first the mystery of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God: "The Word became flesh, He lived among us.” (John 1: 14). God Almighty became the "Emmanuel", ‘God with us’. This is the meaning of Christmas: the child born in Bethlehem is the Eternal Word of God. He took a body from the Virgin Mary. The Creator became like his creation, like us in everything except sin.

The angel greeted Mary with these words: Rejoice, Mary, or peace be upon You, Mary. Both expressions say that the event heralded by the angel is a source of joy for Mary the Virgin and for all humanity. God became one of our land's inhabitants, like us. He passed through our land, making good and healing every disease and illness. He also experienced the injustice of people as we experience it today in the same land. He is our model and see in him a source of joy and strength that turns pain into a source of redemption, and death into the glory of the Resurrection.

We meditate also the Angel’s word to Mary: Nothing is impossible for God. It is not impossible for the Word of God to become a human being. It is not impossible for Zakaria and Elizabeth the elderly to have a son. It is not impossible for God to reveal Himself to us. It is not impossible for us believers in God to be able to love as God loves, and to make justice and peace, despite all odds.

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