Easter Message 2018
Easter Sunday, 1 April 2018
Message of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay to the Faithful on the occasion of Easter 2018 Easter is our Highroad to Freedom
Christ is risen … He is truly risen!
Beloved Children of our Maronite Eparchy,
The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is both a historical fact “handed down to us from those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). It is also a fundamental truth of the faith given witness by the apostles, disciples and angels: “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Matt 28:6). The Good News of the Resurrection went forth to the world, that the Lord had truly suffered, truly been crucified, and truly died, but that he had truly conquered death and risen. He had risen, truly risen, from the darkness and silence of the tomb, and went forth to redeem man from sin and death, calling him to new life.
The resurrection event is a passage from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light, and from death to life. It continues the story of freedom found in the Old Testament, most notably that of the Passover of the Jewish people from bondage and humiliation in the land of Egypt to freedom and dignity in the Promised Land. This turns our attention to the biggest achievement of the Jewish people after their liberation and their arrival in the Promised Land. What they did was build a temple to worship God, and celebrated its completion, because they desired their religious freedom above all.
With the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the perfect path to true freedom was opened to man, because the Lord Jesus, by his death on the cross, had overcome death, pain, evil and the devil. By His resurrection He restored the image of God in man, which had become corrupted by original sin. He freed mankind from the old perspective which dwelt on animosity between people. He gave man the ability to consider the other as his brother in humanity, equal in dignity and freedom, and not a threat to his existence, ambitions or interests: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers,” as tells us St John the Beloved. (1 John 3:14)
Those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ during the first generations of Christianity, under violent persecution and oppression, could not publicly celebrate the Resurrection. Despite this, the church grew and spread greatly, for: “Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved,” as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (2:47). Many accepted faith in the Lord Jesus, and remained steadfast to this faith, even unto martyrdom and death. At the beginning of the fourth century, with the landmark event of the Edict of Milan in 315AD, Christians were granted religious freedom. Christians used this freedom to build churches and monasteries, to live the true faith, and to worship and glorify the Lord.
Today’s celebration of the Feast of Easter is a celebration of true freedom, the freedom of sons and daughters of God who strive to incorporate the spirituality of the Gospel in their lives. We, for our part, follow the path of our forefathers who, after arriving in this great country, Australia, began to build churches and monasteries to express their deep faith in God, and as signs of that religious freedom which is at the foundation of the Australian society.
Today, however, we find ourselves faced with jumped-up notions and legislations which are inconsistent with the general concept of fundamental freedom, and are opposed to freedom of speech and religious liberty. Further, these new principles would damage the human identity, the concept of the family, and the structure of society. Our sons and daughters in their schools, universities and places of work are now asking how they will deal with this difficult situation? The answer is found in the mystery of Easter when we celebrate our freedom as a divine message and it is our way to know the truth, because by knowing the truth, we are set free (John 8:32). No teaching based on falsehood can endure. Freedom can only be understood as a gift from God. Therefore, we are called, every day of our lives, to defend our freedom and our faith and our commitment to marriage and family, according to the tradition of our Maronite Church and our Christian Catholic teaching.
This year, our Maronite Church’s celebration of the Feast of Resurrection is enlivened by two significant events: The first is the arrival of the relics of our Father St. Maroun and the beginning of a pilgrimage to the various churches of the Eparchy. This allows everyone to receive the blessing of the relics, and seek the intercession of St. Maroun, in order to renew and encourage Maronite spirituality in our Australian community. The second event is the first Maronite Diocesan Assembly in Australia, the main session of which shall be held between 12 and 14 April. It aims to establish a vision for the future of our Maronite Church in Australia. It is important that we all pray for the success of this Assembly.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ remains the cornerstone of the life of the Church and of the faithful. For, as St. Paul says: “If Christ is not risen, our preaching is in vain, and our faith likewise is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Because the resurrection is our highroad to freedom, we have to examine ourselves, and call to mind everything from which we must be liberated. The first thing to be freed from is sin and evil: “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” tells us St Peter (Acts 3:19). The salvation that the Lord Jesus achieved by His death and Resurrection does not prevent us from temptation and sin, but saves us from the consequences of evil and sin. As we read in the commandments of the Church: confess your sins at least once a year, preferably during the Season of Easter (CCC 2041-2043). This allows us to receive the remission of our sins by practicing the sacrament of repentance before a priest, and like that we will be freed from the bondage of evil and sin, and enter into joy, hope and peace at this Feast of Easter.
As with the Passover of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, so are we through the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, for we pass over from the old man enslaved to sin and death, to the new one, freed from slavery to become the man of grace and life. Then, we shall be called Children of God through the Spirit and the Truth. Let us all together proclaim in one voice saying:
“Christ is risen … He is truly risen!”
– Maronite Bishop of Australia