Easter Message 2023
Easter Sunday, 9 April 2023
Message of Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay on the occasion of The Feast of the Resurrection, Easter 2023
Dearly Beloved, Sons and Daughters of our Maronite Eparchy;
“My Peace I Give to You”
Each year, at the Feast of the Resurrection, we live once again the encounter with the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead with great glory, victorious over sin and evil. It is the feast when we celebrate the presence of the Lord in the midst of the community of the faithful; sowing joy, hope and peace; and dispelling fear, despair and turmoil. Today, our faith in Him is renewed, for He is the living and true God and with Him alone, we are reborn into eternal life.
The Feast of Resurrection is the feast of Peace, which the Lord declared in His first meeting with His Apostles after His Resurrection. And despite the locked room in which they were gathered and afraid, He entered and stood in their midst, and said to them: “Peace be with you…” (John 20:26). This greeting of peace offered by the Lord to His Apostles was not an ordinary one, for it carried with it all the meaning of the Resurrection and the victory over death, turning sadness into joy, despair into hope, and doubt into faith.
This peace is the most beautiful gift which the Lord presents. He offers it not only to His apostles and disciples, but also to all humanity. “My peace I give you, not as the world gives…” (John 14:27). This is because the Peace of the Lord is true and everlasting.
This peace, which the Lord merited for us by offering Himself as a sacrifice of forgiveness on the Cross, is the very heart of the good news. This peace is a fundamental and traditional mark of the Christian, for the Christian is first and foremost a messenger of peace and love, especially for those who do not know the Lord Jesus, and even to those who persecute Him. We are living in a world that is afraid and lost; in a society that no longer allows room or importance for Christ. And here is where the significance of our Christian message and mission stands out: it is evangelisation through the peace, mercy, love and forgiveness of Christ.
Indeed, the word “Peace” in our Maronite Syriac Antiochian tradition, which is shlomo, bears the meaning and message of encounter and reconciliation between God and sinful human. In the same way, it means living in the presence of God.
Certainly, we today stand in dire need of true peace, that peace which emanates from the Holy Heart of Christ, to touch our own hearts, and in this way His presence is renewed in our lives. This is to affirm with the saints the spiritual truth that: “God sees me”, which rejects all trends and movements that pressure us to live and work as if God did not exist. However, the peace which can be known by us here on earth remains incomplete, for it is only a foretaste of the perfect peace which God grants to those in heaven.
The Lord Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:9), this peace begins first within ourselves, where we see that Easter is an occasion for repentance from sin, and for reconciliation with God. Therefore, reconciliation with God cannot be separated from reconciliation with others. We must take the initiative to forgive those who have sinned against us, for reconciliation is the only path to peace, and forgiveness is the way to freedom from anger and vengeance. In this way, we become peacemakers and merit the blessedness which the Lord Jesus spoke of.
Our celebration of Easter is an opportunity to raise a prayer of gratitude to God the Father who sent His only Son, who reconciled us with His Father, and forgave our sins and trespasses, without any merit on our behalf, and made us His sons and daughters by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Beloved, Easter is a focal point in this year of our Golden Jubilee, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of our Maronite Eparchy here in Australia. The title of the Jubilee Year takes its meaning from the mystery of Easter, which is an open invitation to holiness: “The Maronites in Australia: A Journey of Holiness and Openness.” We see how our holy saints lived this journey. We follow in their steps today, as we welcome the relics of St Maroun, St Charbel, St Rafqa, St Nehmetallah and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop into our Maronite parishes, renewing their legacy of holiness, and affirming the continuity of the mission of our Maronite Church in this blessed land.
We also anticipate with joy the visit of our spiritual father, His Beatitude Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, to celebrate the Jubilee Mass in Homebush NSW on Sunday, 24 September 2023.
I pray with you and for all of you that the peace of the Lord Jesus may dwell in your souls and in your families. I also pray for an end to the ongoing war and bloodshed in Ukraine. We pray together for the tortured and oppressed people of Lebanon, unable to earn their livelihood, and worried about the future of their children and their country. And we ask the Lord who destroyed death and rose from the grave, to raise the people of Lebanon from the misery they have found themselves in and grant them peace.
Beloved, to live in peace is the natural outcome of the faith and belief in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead:
“Christ is Risen … He is truly Risen
And we are witnesses to that.”
+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania