Sunday, October 30, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Let Us Be Apostles of Christ

 Arabic original here.

Let Us Be Apostles of Christ

"For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16)

An apostle in the Church is one who was a disciple of the Lord during His life on earth among us. The Lord Jesus, in the Gospel, chose twelve people from among His disciples and called them apostles: " And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles" (Luke 6:13). They lived with the Lord during His travels and preaching. They were eyewitnesses to His miracles. They saw Him in His divine glory and in His ultimate humility upon the cross. They touched Him living, risen from the dead, and they learned from Him after His resurrection for forty days. They looked upon Him ascending into the heavens and they received from Him the Holy Spirit and the authority to loosen and bind in heaven and on earth.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life..." (1 John 1:1), the experience of those apostles was given to us through them and through the Church over the course of the centuries. Therefore, our faith is based on the testimony of witnesses, the apostles who endured hardships, persecution and killing (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10) in order to preserve a correct witness to faith in the Lord risen from the dead and so our faith is preserved in surety and truth because its price is the blood of the apostles and martyrs...

 Therefore, the Church's mission is to be apostolic, to preserve the "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (1 Jude 1:3), since she is built upon the foundation of this faith and the Church is apostolic since she is asked to constantly preach the Gospel until there is no one left unevangelized...

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Today, we are called to be apostles of Christ. Christ was sent by God the Father (cf. John 5:30, 36, 37, 39...) and He sent His disciples into the world (cf. John 20: 21) and sends us today by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to Him unto the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8).

The apostles evangelized the Jews first, and then the gentiles, and this is asked of us today too. That is, the Good News must reach every person, so that the world may know God's salvation and His love for His creation through Jesus Christ.

The responsibility to evangelize is incumbent upon every believing Christian, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). If God gave His only-begotten Son for the life of the world, then our responsibility as believers in the incarnate Son of God is to preach Him so that the world may know Him, lest people perish in their sins.

How can we make people know the incarnate Son of God, the Savior? When His word and new commandment is embodied in us: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Christian love is divine love, that is, an icon of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Therefore it is the gift of divine grace when a person accepts to empty himself. That is, for the I to become the divine thou through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We cannot live this love and acquire it if we do not experience it in the mystery of communion in the mystery of the Eucharist where in Christ we become one with God and among one another in the experience of the indwelling of God's Spirit within us and His being poured out upon us.

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From the wellspring of grace, the joy of the resurrection and the peace of the Kingdom of God comes the power of evangelism among believers. Our preaching the Gospel of Christ risen from the dead is a personal and collective experience. The person that does not have this experience and the group that does not know this mystery can by no means evangelize and preach the achievement of victory if they do not participate in it at all. Hence the weakness of witness in the Church, because we have become estranged from the "first love" (cf. Revelation 2:4).

Discipleship is the answer to the weakness of our preaching, evangelism and witness. If the Church does not return to the experience of discipleship, that is, teaching through accompaniment and shared life, in order to teach the faith and its experience by osmosis between those who are experienced and those who are learning, then the preaching of the good news will turn into scientific, literary, proverbial, historical or imaginary words... If we do not have saints with us, then we will not learn holiness. If we do not find those who have experienced the life of grace, then we will not taste it. If we do not rub shoulders with the penitent, then we will not be trained in repentance. If we do not see people praying with our own eyes, then we will not be attracted to prayer...

This does not mean that God is unable to give people all these things if they strive alone and do not find anyone to learn from. The Lord does what He wants and gives what He wants to those He wants, but the general rule that the Lord Jesus and the apostles after Him taught is the model of the teacher before the disciple: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19), "Learn from Me, for I am [f]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29), "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet" (Matthew 13:14), "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Today the world is in need of Christ in order to escape from the persistence of spiritual death that it is experiencing and from the arbitrariness in the shadow of the domination of the spirit of consumption, individualism and false, distorted freedom. Christ put the Church in the world to be an icon of His unity with humankind and of their unity with each other through Him, so that she may reveal the life of the age to come in light of the acquisition of eternal divinity in pious believers and saints, which dwells in them and is active by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

God lights in our hearts the fire of His love to consume the thorns of our passions, our egotism and our pride, that we may be purified and become lamps that bear the light of the Word for the salvation of the world.


Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

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