Bishop's Column | February 2019

Bishop's Column | February 2019



 By: Bishop A. Elias Zaidan

The year 2019 is a “Jubilee Year” for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.  We will be celebrating the 25thAnniversary of the establishmentof the Eparchy.  With the papal proclamation Omnium Catholicorum dated February 19, 1994, Pope Saint John Paul II established thesecond Eparchy for Maronites in the United States.

I use the term “Jubilee” in announcing this celebration. The idea of a Jubilee Yearhas a long tradition in the Bible and the Church.  As far back as Moses “a year of Jubilee" was proclaimed.  In the Book of Leviticus,we read: “the ram’s horn blast shall resound throughout your land "  (Lv. 25:9). It was the ram’s horn that announced the year of jubilee to all the people.  The Hebrew people kept this tradition throughout the centuries by continuing to declare Jubilee Years from time to time.  During the Jubilee year personal liberty was proclaimed throughout the land, there was a restitutionof property, that is, an opportunity for reconciliation among neighbors and a call to lead a simpler life among all the people. 

The Church continued this practice of declaring Jubilee years.  Most recently in 2015, Pope Francis announced a special Jubilee Year on the theme of mercy.  In Church tradition,a Jubilee or Holy Year is a year of forgiveness of sins. It is a year of reconciliation between enemies and adversaries and even among family members; it is a time of personal conversion and receiving the Holy Mysteryof Reconciliation.  The aim of a Jubilee Year is solidarity, hope, justice and, in general, a commitment to serve God with joy and in peace along with all our brothers and sisters. It is an occasion for rejuvenation and renewal.

The Prophet Hosea tells us:“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces, buthe will heal us; he has injured us, buthe will bind up our wounds” (Hosea 6:1).  For us, Christ is the healer of body and soul - the physician.  He can help us recover our physical and spiritual strength.

As Maronites of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, and indeed as all baptized Christians, we have a mission given to us by Jesus Himself.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and ofthe Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).


Over the centuries since Jesus Christ gave this command to his disciples, the Church has taken it very seriously.  Our ancestors took the Faith throughout the Middle East, especially to the mountains of Lebanon.  Strong and vibrant communities of Maronites existed and continueto exist in Syria, in Jordan, in Egypt, in Cyprus, andinthe Holy Land.  In recent centuries we have taken the Gospel to North, Central and South America, to Africa, Europe, and toAustralia. The Good News of Salvation, the Gospel, which we proclaim, is for all people, in all places, and in all times.  Within our ownEparchy,we have parishes from Michigan to California, from Alabama to Oregon and so many places in between.  We need to establish more Maronite communities in so many other places as well: in New Mexico and Nebraska, in Indiana and Kansas, even some dayin Hawaii and Alaska!


We are a young Eparchy when considering the 2,000-yearhistory of the Church, but we take our calling to share the Gospel seriously.  We need to restore our historical missionary spirit where it may have lapsed.  In places where we have had a long history of an organized Maronite presence,we may need to re-evangelize our people, to stimulate a new missionary spirit. It is not just up to us, however. The Lord gives tous the gifts of being “missionaries” and, at times, the gift of “martyrdom” as well.  These gifts of the Spirit belong to God.  Such gifts of God are ultimately for helping the whole Church.  


We must always remember that to be a missionary, that is, one sent out to proclaim the Gospel, was given to each and everyone of us at our Baptism.  Every one of us, who is a follower of Jesus Christ, is under the command of God to, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).  But, of course, each of us in our ownway according to our state in life: bishop and priest, deacon and subdeacon, consecrated religious and lay people, mother or father, worker, retired, sick or healthy – we all must make disciples.  We are all responsible for sharing the Gospel.  Saint Paul shared the Gospel in his way, Saint Maron in his, Saints Sharbel and Rafka each in their ownway.


We cannot forget that martyrdom, the sacrifice of our lives for the Gospel, is tied up in our mission. We think of the great martyrs of the Church: the Holy Apostles, St. Stephen the Deacon, the 350 monks, disciples of St. Maron, who experienced martyrdom for upholding the Faith of the Church.  In 1860, the three Massabki brothers, patrons of our laity, offered their lives for the sake of their faith in God.  There are martyrseven up to our ownday as well.


In the modern world and where we find ourselves today, like the United States, martyrdom, if not physical death, also comes in a variety of ways.  We can suffer rejection by the world for our Faith; we can be humiliated and disgraced publicallybecause we hold fast to the Gospel.  All this we must be prepared for as well strengthened with the promise of Christ: "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). 


But in spite of all of this, the Gospel is, at its very heart, a source of joy. The good news of the Gospel is salvation, andthat is very good news.  So be open to the Gospel, rejoice in the good news and somehow because each of us respondsto the Gospel in different ways, I feel the Lord will help us to take it from there. In his first encyclical letter “The Joy of the Gospel,”Pope Francis said: “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew."  

Let us make this Jubilee Year, our Eparchial Silver Anniversary, one of renewal and rekindle in ourselves and inour parishes a new missionary spirit. Let us reach out to all our faithful, the people we lost along the years; and let us welcome with open arms, hearts, and minds the many who are seeking a relationship with our Lord.