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Sunday, December 11, 2016
Text: Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pentecost homily
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¬†Dear Brothers and Sisters. Happy and Holy Feast of Pentecost. Each year we have the grace of gathering together in this holy place with the Benedictine community headed by Father Abbot Benedikt Lindemann, and with all of you, brothers and sisters, pilgrims and parishioners. For us, this place recalls the memory of the presence of the Holy Spirit in each of us and the birth here of the Church. On the Cross and with Jesus' Resurrection from the dead, the promise God made through the prophets was fulfilled; God's promise to save humanity was accomplished: "All is fulfilled," Jesus said on the Cross. Here, on this day, Jesus' promise to his apostles that he would send them the Holy Spirit was fulfilled: "The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will instruct you in everything, and remind you of all that I told you" (Jn 14, 26). Today, again, He sent them out on a mission: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20, 21). They were sent not to conquer kingdoms but to share the life they had received, to call attention to the presence of God the Creator and Redeemer in the whole world, and to witness to the Resurrection. Speaking of his mission on Sunday May 8, the day on which he took possession of his cathedral, Saint John Lateran, Pope Benedict XVI said: "The authority of the pope is not a threat to one's freedom of conscience, or a presumption that goes against freedom of thought." The role of the pope is to be "a witness of the Resurrected Christ." The apostles said the same thing. In his First Letter, Saint John writes: "We proclaim to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched. We speak of the word of life" (1 Jn 1, 1). And, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke adds: "This is the Jesus God has raised up, and we are his witnesses" (Acts 2, 33). Witnesses. We who are privileged to live on the very locations where our Redemption took place are also called to be witnesses. Witnesses of the Resurrection in the way we receive all of the Churches of the world, and in the way each community here receives the Church that sent it, that it represents, and that it receives as a pilgrim. And all of us, together, we are witnesses of the Resurrection to all those who live with us in this land of conflict, Jews, Christians and Muslims. Today, May 15, recalls two conflicting events in the history of this land, the birth of the State of Israel and the "Day of the Catastrophe," or the loss of the land for the Palestinian people, two events of which we, the believers in Jesus Christ and in this land, are an integral part. The fate of all human beings concerns us, whether it be their successes or their failures, their aspirations or their sufferings. Consequently, on this Pentecost Sunday, both events are part of our prayer. We ask God to fill us with his Spirit and to recreate and reconcile the hearts of Palestinians and Israelis, and particularly the hearts of their leaders so that they might become instruments of peace and justice for all. At times, however, we distance ourselves from the inhabitants of this land, as they fight to death among themselves, even though it is our responsibility to remain close to them and to witness to the Resurrection. For that reason, we are not always perceived as the witnesses we are called to be. Instead, we are often known only for our complaints and for the various demands and needs of our social and material life. But, thank God, through some of our liturgies, especially those celebrated in our various monasteries which attract souls that are searching for God in this land, we are seen also as true witnesses of the Holy Spirit. As it was for the Apostles, Pentecost is also the day of our birth and the day on which we are sent. It is the day that recalls the best thing that ever happened to us, the day on which the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us. Indeed, the day of our baptism and the day of our confirmation were days of Pentecost for each of us. Since then, the Holy Spirit has dwelt in us; since then we have been sent to be witnesses of the Resurrection and of the Holy Spirit who can renew the face of the earth. He can renew our souls and reveal to us the truth of our life and of our happiness. He can reveal himself to all of society and accompany it in its search for an identity. Indeed, the first characteristic of any human identity, whether of persons or of groups, is to be a bearer of the Holy Spirit and to become with God, the master of history, the architect of one's own history. This characteristic, common to all human identities, enables each one to be sensitive to the identities of all persons and of all groups of whatever religion, nationality, or culture. In this way, we become capable of establishing in each of our dwellings, in each of our human identities, the dwelling place of God among us on earth. Here in the Holy Land, the land of Pentecost, of the Resurrection, of its joy and hope, and of its victory over death and sin, we continue to be defeated and to be overcome by sin and death, in the struggle that continues between our two peoples. Nevertheless, our vocation is to know the meaning of the Resurrection and to be filled with its strength and victory over death and sin. We are two peoples and three religions. We are all called to build God's dwelling place in our land. We are all called to place ourselves sincerely in God's presence, to contemplate the grace that God has given each of us, and to come to the realization that we are all children of God, bearers of his image, and this despite the blood that is being shed, the prisoners who are being tortured, the wall that continues to go up, the fears that sustain the conflict, as well as the occupation and subjection of one people by another. Despite all of this, a shared truth unites us, namely that we are all God's creatures, and that we are all capable of overcoming death and sin and of becoming, together, with God, the Master of history, the builders of our history, both present and future. Brothers and sisters, this year, with the universal Church, we are living the year of the Eucharist, and, in line with the pastoral plan of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, we are living the year of catechesis. These are two topics that complement each other, for they are the two tables from which we nourish ourselves in order to be witnesses: the table of the Eucharist and the table of the Word of God. The Eucharist is the real presence among us of the Lord Jesus, man and God, dead and risen. The Word of God is the light and strength that enable us to see God and to show him to all who accompany us in our land. We pray that these two celebrations of the Eucharist and of catechesis may bear fruit in all of our dioceses. These last days, brothers and sisters, have also been difficult for all of the Church of Jerusalem due to the difficulties facing the Greek Orthodox Church. "If one member suffers," says Saint Paul, "all the members suffer with it" (I Cor 12, 26). Along with our brothers and sisters in the Greek Orthodox Church, we too are suffering and ask the Holy Spirit to shower us with his blessings, to renew us all, and to remind us always of the truth of our mission: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20, 21). May we always be supportive of each other and faithful witnesses of the Resurrection. On this day of Pentecost, we thank God also for the Sacrament of Confirmation we are about to confer on members of our community: Fadi FARWAGI, Michel Shukri FARAWGI, Souleymane BALLAN, Stťphanie SHALINE, Ramzi SHALINE. We pray that the Holy Spirit will renew in them the joy of life and make them faithful witnesses of Jesus who died and rose from the dead. Finally, for all of us, brothers and sisters, for all the inhabitants of our land, Jews, Christians and Muslims, we pray asking God to enable all of us together to establish his dwelling among us. Amen. +Michel Sabbah, Patriarch
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