Letter of His Excellence
Archbishop of the Maronites of Cyprus
Msgr. Selim Sfeir
to the priests, the Maronite faithful and all the people of Cyprus
on the second anniversary of his postulation of the episcopal position on the Maronite Diocese of Cyprus
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
In this second year since I was postulated on the Maronite Diocese of Cyprus, I take this great opportunity to express all my fraternal and paternal love to each and every one of you. My primary mission and my ultimate goal will always be to strengthen between us the fraternal bonds of charity in Christ Our Lord and Our only hope. With you, I become aware of our ecclesial communion and our concern to live our faith through the different charisms that the Holy Spirit has given us, in order to make them fruitful according to the Will of God, more particularly in this difficult and often conflicting period that our world is living today. Furthermore, I wish to encourage you not to despair facing the multiple problems, but to rely on our faith in Christ to strengthen our self-confidence and face in hope the multiple challenges of the current world. We give thanks to the Lord by imploring him to strengthen our gifts and even our personal and community charisms, because our world increasingly needs the commitment of each one of us.
First of all, I want to proclaim before you, like Saint Paul, that I have never put and will never put my pride in anything other than in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified for me, as I am for the world! (cf. Galatians 6, 14) For what matters to me in this service as pastor in the Church is you and Christ living in you, because you are as the apostle Paul also says in 2 Co. 3:3 “ You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts".
Yes, Christ is alive in us today as He was when He walked the roads of Palestine. His Resurrection is not simply a historical fact or an act of faith, but a perpetual reality in each of us whenever we face death in all its forms we overcome it through Him, with Him and in Him. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” as the letter to the Hebrews tells us (Heb. 13:8), he is alive today and is present with each of us, he will still be alive tomorrow and will be present with our children and our future generations forever and for eternity. Following our ancestors who built, thanks to Christ, the world in which we live today, so we too with Christ and in Him, we build this world in which our children and our grandchildren and all the generations to come, will evolve.
Beloved in Christ, let nothing disturb your faith or pervert the grace of your baptism. You are bearers of Christ in the world; Christ lives in you and continues his saving mission through you. Your current life is an extension of the incarnation of Christ. It is up to the world to shape itself to you, and not the other way around. If the world has moved away from Christ, we must be, as He taught us: “the light of the world… and the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13-14), since we can do everything in him who strengthens us. (cf. Philippians 4, 13). Regardless of our situation, Hope that does not disappoint is already and always will be the gift par excellence that the Holy Spirit provides to vivify us and save the world, and He does not show favoritism (cf. Acts 10:34). Everything we experience today teaches us that falling away from Jesus, Our GOOD NEWS, does not lead to happiness, as has often been suggested and reflected by the false prophets of our world. Freeing ourselves from the demands of the Gospel plunges us into cruel and filthy constraints without any comparison with the previous ones, precipitating the world into an unprecedented abyss.
In no case does the Church seek a renewed power over you or through you, she does not want to have a hold on the world. Power has wounded her and taken her away from her saving mission, she is not to think again in the way of the world and according to the flesh. In the present time, the Church has allowed herself to be stripped in order to win Christ so that He may become the life of your life. Because apart from him there is no real life, there is no real love, there is no real hope, there is no real meaning to our life, there is no real encounter, there is no real freedom, there is no real joy, there is no real consolation that we can experience in the midst of our daily sufferings , there is no saving communion, there is no eternal Salvation.
Nothing, nothing but emptiness, a destructive emptiness for man and his humanity. On the other hand, everything in Jesus is generated and takes shape for life and never for death. Whether it comes from a believer or from an unbeliever, from a faithful or from an infidel, for all are his children and “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8, 28-29).
Beloved of God, you are in the world and sent into the world to bear the fruits of the Spirit, for you are no longer carnal beings. Now The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5: 19-26).
Here is your baptism: you are the ambassadors of Christ! The Second Vatican Council emphasizes the importance of this mission: For the exercise of this apostolate, the Holy Spirit Who sanctifies the people of God through ministry and the sacraments gives the faithful special gifts also (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7), "allotting them to everyone according as He wills" (1 Cor. 12:11) in order that individuals, administering grace to others just as they have received it, may also be "good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10), to build up the whole body in charity (cf. Eph. 4:16). From the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who "breathes where He wills" (John 3:8). This should be done by the laity in communion with their brothers in Christ, especially with their pastors who must make a judgment about the true nature and proper use of these gifts not to extinguish the Spirit but to test all things and hold for what is good (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12,19,21) (APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM no.3).
Sisters and brothers beloved in Christ, let us love one another as Christ loved us (cf. John 13:34). By doing so, we will strengthen each other personally and mutually as the living body of Christ; we will refocus our lives as well as those of our homeland on Jesus; we will no longer give in to discouragement, to lies, to suffering, nor even to the arrogance of faith that is too sure of itself and of its accomplishments. On the contrary, we will humbly live our faith, like little children of the Father, believing in the strength that we find in Christ. Then, we will know God, and above all, we will be known by God (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:3); we will live for Christ and witness with our own lives to the gospel, whatever the cost. This is how we will find the good part of the joy that no one will take away from us (cf. John 16:22).
Jesus Christ wants us as an unbroken chain of all kinds of suffering and offerings transformed into the joy of Salvation, which extends from yesterday to today, and will last until eternity. Nothing will break this chain, neither the forces of evil, nor the spirit of this world. So take heart, don't be the link that breaks!
Let us be consecrated by the Truth, that is to say, sanctified by the Word of God who is Jesus Christ, the saving Word of God Our Father. He and He alone is our only weapon against the destructive spirit of the Evil One. And let's not stray from Mary the Mother of God, she is "our door to heaven". In her, as in no other human creature, we see the triumph of grace over sin, we see fulfilled the prophecy of Genesis of the descent of the woman who crushed the head of the infernal serpent (John Paul II, Homily in Sainte-Marie-Majeure, December 8, 1985). With Mary and by the Power of the Spirit, let us crush the serpent's head and be beloved sons and daughters of God.
† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus