The story behind this photograph is truly excruciating. This beautiful green- eyed Syrian girl is currently living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The reason she is there? As you may have already guessed, her entire family was murdered. She herself barely escaped death.
She has witnessed acts of sheer evil that took away her everything. Everything! What do you think would be a natural response to this? God forbid, but, if this were to ever happen to you, how would you respond? With hatred? Revenge? Not this girl. She chose love!” When she arrived at the refugee camp, she took a marker and wrote “LOVE” on her hand, in both English and Arabic.
Jesus’ teaching, to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” is a very difficult pill to swallow, especially at a time like this. This young girl who must have been completely traumatized by such a heinous act and the tragedy of having lost her entire family at the hands of an unjust aggressor…it would be only natural to harbour hatred. It would be entirely human to wish evil upon perpetrators who took everything away from you, but she knows better, perhaps better than any one of us, she knows “LOVE.”
Love and forgiveness are the reason that God sent His only Son into the world. Of course we know this, but it is a challenge to embody this truth in our everyday lives. The good news about God’s redemptive love and forgiveness, and plan of salvation – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16)” – unfortunately, is something that the heartless terrorists will never know. How could they ever come to know about the gift of God’s unconditional love? Unless…unless, we show them and others by our lives, like this beautiful Syrian girl.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, can we spread the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet? Can we choose love instead of hate, and can we choose forgiveness instead of revenge? It is not easy, but with the help of God, we can!
I was assigned to St. Andre Bessette Parish in May of last year. I first moved to St. David’s Parish in July and lived there for both the months of July and August, and on September 8th, St. Andre Bessette Parish was born; coinciding with the birthday of our Blessed Mother. I was grateful and overwhelmed by the support I experienced that day. Both the 10am and 12pm Mass on the opening day were full. Who would have imagined that the first Mass would be full? I had been told by two pastors who had previously built churches that only a handful of people came to their first mass. I recall one priest telling me that his first collection was $34, and all that came from his own family members! Our collection was jaw dropping $3000 on our first Sunday collection! We were off to a great start!
Over a hundred people from my former parishes drove all the way to Maple to celebrate this historical moment; the opening of a brand new parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Thanks to Notre Dame High School Choir who came all the way from Ajax to provide music for our first mass making it extra special and meaningful. When the students arrived, I was told that the school bus that was supposed to bring them to Maple broke down and never even showed up at their school that Sunday morning in Ajax. They panicked and decided to call a cab. All 30 students and the teachers showed up in several different cabs! I was moved by their determination and show of friendship and support.
Looking back, I remember anxiously getting prepared to celebrate the first Sunday Mass and nervously ordering 100 boxes of envelopes, as I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment in case only a few people showed up. But to my surprise, we had over 100 registrations at the first mass and we ran out of registration forms and of the 100 boxes of envelopes at the first mass! That was certainly an attestment to what we believe – God does provide. I knew from that very moment that God didn’t just send me to Maple to build a church on my own, but with the capable helping hands of many others. Since the inception of our parish, our parish has grown to over 500 families and we have raised about $135,000 for our building fund in the first year. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am confident that the Good Lord is with us and will guide us every step of the way. And I am truly grateful for all your support, your help, and your dedication to our parish, which has not only made a difference in the life of our parish, but also in my personal life! Thank you for joining our parish, and those who are new to our parish community, welcome!