Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay: Reflections on the Plenary

Maronite Eparch Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay reflects on the experience of the Plenary

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Bishop Antoine Charbel-Tarabay celebrates Mass in this file photo.

I will begin by saying that my experience in this first session of the Plenary was as beautiful as it was challenging, and there was definitely a lot of listening and a lot of learning.

Our very lives are sustained by the Holy Spirit, and our spiritual lives are enriched by the Word of God, which He teaches us. God is also present in the Holy Mysteries or Sacraments of the Church, and we sense His wonders and love before the miracle of life; human and organic.

It was significant in this plenary to focus on the presence of Jesus Christ, the Hidden Pearl, in our secret hearts, where we can find a true path to individual, spiritual, and communal renewal. Through the shining of the Pearl, we can see the image of God in each other, and read His lessons in the Book of nature calling for a much needed ecological conversion. United in faith, let us seek the revelations hidden in nature and each other.

I return to our Syriac tradition which teaches that the divine design and wisdom is made manifest most clearly in the Holy Mysteries, then in our souls, then in the Book of Nature.

This Plenary presented a unique opportunity to listen and learn: When we listen to the Holy Spirit and the word of God, and take the opportunity to contemplate, this can lead us to a much-needed, Christ-centred renewal. When we act, we can learn from each other in this journey of conversion by accompaniment in humility and respecting our diversity.

But the most challenging of these is to listen and to learn from those who feel that they do not have a place or a voice in the Church today. This means that the work ahead of us is beyond our capability and our imagination, though it is not beyond God, and so we pray the Lord to send workers into his harvest.

We need renewal, and “conversion”, for to convert our hearts is to die and be reborn in Christ, with a renewed understanding of sin and evil, and of human frailty. Only the humble can truly wonder at His forgiveness and grace.

In this First session of the Plenary, it was very clear that the Australian Catholic Church is called by the Holy Spirit to collaborate with all Australians, for justice and equality, for dignity and for respect for life.  It also became clear that the Eastern Catholics are called to an important role and mission.

This reality was expressed by His Grace Archbishop Robert Rabbat in his intervention when he said, “The Eastern Catholics are the contemporary manifestation of the ancient churches which evolved from the first Apostle communities. they preserve a precious treasure of Catholic faith that they wish to share it with their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.”

Truly, the Eastern Catholic faith is a precious treasure, and we wish to share it with all the Australians.

The question remains: How the Church can be more ready and equipped to live its mission, the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in today’s world?

Looking forward to next session of the Plenary Council in July 2022, it is the duty of the Church “…to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity- into this art of accompaniment which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred grounds of the other” (Evangelii Gaudium 169).