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Faith of the Mountain

The Catholic Catechism
for the Maronite Church

Cedars in aShouf Lebanon

Jesus Says, “Follow Me!”

The Resurrected Jesus Sends the Women to Tell the Good News from the Rabbula Gospels

The Maronite Patriarchal Cross as the Tree of Life

A Hymn from the Maronite Liturgy

Lord, may your cross
guard your holy, faithful Church
everywhere throughout the world.
Keep all scandal far from her;
keep her free from harm and strife,
that your lasting peace may reign
for all ages yet to come.
May the children of the Church
find their shelter and their strength
in the shadow of your cross.

(From the Qolo Hymn of the Prayer of Forgiveness, or Husoyo, for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Book of Offering)

What do you think?

What do you think strength is? What are some different kinds of strength?

Why do you think the children of the Church need strength?

When do you feel strong?

A metal Syriac cross from a Syriac Orthodox church in Sweden

Ornamental Syriac Cross from a Syriac Orthodox Church in Sweden

A Reading from the Gospel according to St Luke

This is the Gospel reading for September 20
[This reading is only used in years when the actual Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross falls on a Sunday.]

The Evangelist wrote:
The soldiers also mocked [Jesus], coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:36-42)

Virtue: Good in the Face of Evil

We cannot control any behavior except our own. The Gospel reading describes Jesus’ response to other people’s bad behavior. We need strength to be good when people are behaving badly around us, and especially when they are behaving badly towards us or towards people we love. We call this kind of strength “virtue.” Virtues are what prove the real strength of a person. Strength does not mean having power to stop others, but having the power to act lovingly and do good when it is most difficult to do so. Some people, like the soldiers and the first criminal in the Gospel believe we are weak if we are good and loving and kind. That is when we need virtue the most, the strength to do good and to love when it is hardest.

The most important Christian virtues are Faith, Hope, and Love:

Faith to trust God even when we do not understand why we are facing difficulty.
Hope to see that God can bring good out of bad situations, just as God saved the world through Jesus’ death.
Love to be concerned even for those who have no concern for us and to try to work for the good of all people.

Along with these virtues, we gain strength from patience, modesty, humility, fairness, generosity, kindness, balance. We call the opposite behaviors vices.

Return Good for Evil

…Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.(1 Peter 2:21-25)
A Crucifix from the Monastery of Saint Elijah in Qannoubine, Lebanon

Cross in the Monastery of Saint Elijah in Qannoubine, Lebanon

What do you think?

How do you see the relationship between the Cross and virtue?

What do you think are some of the challenges we face in being strong when others are behaving badly?

Why do you think people behave badly?

What relationship do you see between the Gospel reading on page 2 and the reading from Saint Peter on this page?

Some Advice about Strength

This is a poem that was found on the wall of a home run by Saint Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity for children in Calcutta, India. It is believed to have been written by her.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway!
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway!
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway!
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway!
What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway!
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway!
The good you do today people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway!
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway!
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta meeting a little baby

Saint Teresa of Calcutta meeting a little baby.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta and her sisters adoring the Blessed Sacrament

Saint Teresa of Calcutta and her sisters adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

What do you think?

Think of people you know or know about who truly lived the way Jesus taught us to live. Share something about how these people lived according to Jesus’ way of life.
Most of us from one day to the next do not have many opportunities to do heroic things. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said:

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

She also said:

“Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

What are some of the small, simple things we can all do to live the way Jesus taught us to live?

WWhat does God want us to do and how does God want us to act towards others?

A Prayer from the Maronite Liturgy

This is the Etro, the final prayer from the Prayer of Forgiveness or Husoyo, for Fridays in the Season of the Glorious Cross.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, accept the sweet fragrance of the incense that we have raised to you as we celebrate the exaltation of your victorious cross, and by it, exalt your Church and protect her children from sin. May we serve you with a joyful spirit, and praise and glorify you, your Father, and your Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
A cross carving from the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ephesus

An image of a Cross in carving at the house in Ephesus that is believed to be the last House of the Blessed Virgin Mary before her Assumption.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The reference below each statement links to the official English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  • To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is to act from the love of Christ, loving others. We become more and more like Christ every day, less worried about what we can get and more concerned about how we can help others as Jesus did.
    CCC #1435 ; CCC #1816 ; CCC #1877 ; and CCC #2011-2016 ; also CCC #2028
  • By Jesus’ accepting the Cross, we have the gift of strength, of virtue, to be able to do good, even when it is difficult. Even when others behave badly, we can choose to be loving and good.
    CCC ##1803-1829, especially CCC #1823-1827

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    the publishing house of the Eparchies
    of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Catholic Church
    in the United States of America.