Byzantine Catholic Church in America: News of the East


Eparch's Paschal Message 2000

His Grace Bishop JOHN (Elya), Eparch of Newton



Eparch's Paschal Message, 2000

(To be read from the pulpit and/or to be distributed with the weekly bulletin)

To the clergy, laity and friends of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

The Resurrection of the Lord takes on a deeper and more powerful meaning in this Millennium year. The Jubilee 2000 is a celebration of two thousand years of the presence of Christ in human history. What makes the presence of Christ in history so important is not His birth or His death, although both are very valuable. It's not even all the miracles, which He performed in His three years of public ministry as recorded by the Gospel writers. What makes our Lord Jesus Christ the unique and most important figure in the history of the world is His glorious resurrection.

By rising from the dead, Jesus proved that He is truly God, One in Being with the Father, and the giver of hope to the world. He became the Hope of the world. By rising from the dead, Jesus Christ destroyed sin and death and gave life to the world. He became the Life of the world. By rising from the dead Jesus Christ shattered the darkness. He became the Light of the world. He even invited us to shine His light to others. By rising from the dead our Savior Jesus Christ ransomed us from the power of Satan and we now have nothing and no one to fear. Jesus Christ is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. He gives us a new beginning, a beginning that has no end.

I remember hearing this joyful verse some years ago, and being very touched by it.

"I shut the door of yesterday,

And threw the key away.

Tomorrow holds no fear for me,

For Christ is risen today."

It is so wonderful to shut the door on yesterday in the sense of letting go of our fears, our resentments, our anger, our guilt and our shame. In this spirit of "new beginnings," we forgive all those who have hurt us in any way. One of the most beautiful prayers in the Office of the Resurrection includes the line, "Behold, today is the day of the resurrection; let us glory in the feast. Let us embrace one another in joy and say: 'O Brothers and enemies too, we forgive everything on resurrection day.'" This is where our Eastern Tradition comes from, that we don't kneel from the day of the Resurrection until Pentecost. All is forgiven because of the resurrection.

God wants us to stand tall, washed clean in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. God wants us to hold our heads up high knowing that we are sons and daughters of God. That makes us all royalty. We are 'King's kids.' And on the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from the dead we celebrate this truth with greater joy and conviction. We are Heaven
bound ! As Saint Paul writes to the Christian Community at Philippi, Heaven is our homeland. Our commonwealth, our citizenship is in Heaven. (cf. Philippians 3:20) And, I would add that our passport is Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Then, He has gone to prepare the way for us. (cf. John 14:1-6) If we follow Him through the ups and downs of life, we are surely on the way to victory.

In the risen Jesus, we find our pardon, our purpose, our power, and our peace.

In our risen Lord Jesus we find our pardon. Because of the life-giving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are washed clean from our sins. "Jesus our Lord was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification." (Romans 4:25) "Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have received our reconciliation." (cf. Romans 5:11) There is no reason anymore for any one of us to be enslaved to sin. The Sacramental Mystery of Penance is always as near as the priest. I encourage all of us to allow the mercy of God to bless us often through the Mystery of Confession.

Jesus, our risen Savior gives meaning and purpose to our lives. He is truly the way. (cf. John 14:6) The world shows us so many ways, but we know that only in Jesus will we find our purpose. He is the Word made flesh and He makes the Father's love present to us. "For I am sure" Saint Paul writes, "that neither death nor life, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

There is a resurrection power and light that we can radiate if we stay united to and rooted in our risen Lord Jesus. "We can do all things in Christ who strengthens us." (cf. Philippians 4:13) And by radiating the love and power and light of the resurrection, we make the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ more believable to the world. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to tell the story of a man who didn't believe in God. He was an atheist. But he came to the faith in God after seeing a few of her sisters ministering to people at death's door at the Home for the Dying in India. We make Jesus more believable by our love, by our good works of mercy, by reaching out to those otherwise rejected. We are the best witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Several weeks ago, (on February 12 and on March 4) I was privileged to help distribute the nearly 300 meals prepared each time by our Melkite Church of St. Jude and given to the homeless in downtown Miami. This outreach of mercy is accomplished every Saturday afternoon. As we offered meals to the homeless, I admired in their grateful faces the joy and hope of the risen Lord. I have had this same privilege of encountering the risen Lord Jesus in the faces of homeless people living under bridges, in subway stations and in the streets of New York City as I served with the Emmaus Community in Harlem headed by our Melkite priest Fr. David Kirk.

From our reconciliation, our joyful hope and our power of service to the needy brothers and sisters of Christ, flows peace, the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that passes understanding. (cf. John 14:27; 16:33; & 20:21) I once saw a great and insightful statement about peace. NO JESUS / NO PEACE, but KNOW JESUS / KNOW PEACE. I pray for that peace of the risen Lord to reign in your hearts and in the hearts of all those dear to you, as we celebrate with joy these 40 glorious days of resurrection. May this same joy flood your lives every Sunday, as we celebrate again the Lord's resurrection. To our risen Lord be glory forever. Amen

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

NB - The text of this 2000 Paschal Message in Arabic is available from our Melkite Chancery Office, 158 Pleasant St., Brookline, MA 02446 - Tel.(617) 566-4511


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