By Rev. Dr. Labib Kobti

When in the Holy Land, our home Countries, Jesus was announced as risen, a great joy was proclaimed and, what was in the past a reason of hatred and fight became an occasion of love and forgiveness. Our People started to realize that what the Lord was preaching during his time had really a great meaning: "I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete" (John 11:11). What joy, you are talking about, Lord? How will our joy be complete? And the Lord added: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend. You are my friends if you do what I command you .John 11:12-14.

The Apostles, the disciples, the women and the children of our home Countries understood exactly what Jesus said: They are called to love. That Easter, 2000 years ago, was an EASTER OF LOVE. They understood what love was They are called to love like Jesus loved; to forgive, to be patient, to forget the bad things that others did to us, to stop doing wrong and just love. They understood his words that He pronounced some time ago: "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the Just and the unjust. For if you love who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors (the IRS of that time) do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ( math. 5:43-48).

It is an Easter of Love every time you remember that you are called only to love. The Lord did not promise that you will be loved or appreciated. On the contrary, He told us that we will be persecuted, misunderstood and not at all appreciated because we are called to love. He gave himself as an example: "Remember the word I spoke to you, no slave is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours" (Din 15:20). "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first (Din 15:18). See also Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19; John. 16:1-4; Acts 4:8,31 .

Called to love and only to love, this is the GREAT MESSAGE OF EASTER. You can not be a real Christian if you do not accept this fact in your life.

But how to practice it? In my life as a priest and specially as an Arab priest ( recently I celebrated my 20 years of priesthood ), I can speak about my experience in our Countries, the Land of the prophets and of our Lord Jesus: Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel. What we really need in our Countries to again make it HOLY PLACES, is to convert ourselves to love each other.

Look what Saint John said in his First Letter: " If anyone says: I love God, but he hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother"(1 John: 4:20-21). I see in those words a condemnation by Saint John against us Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants or simply Christians . We state that we love God, we worship him in our churches but we speak against the other churches or criticize them. This makes Christian Unity a difficult issue. How could we pretend that we love and worship God, "whom we have not seen" and do not love a brother "whom we do see", said St. James. Then, this Easter of Love could be a wonderful Easter if you take a resolution to respect and love your Christian brother. Go and wish him a happy Easter, even if he is not from your own church and tell him about your resolution. We brought to USA our divisions from our Home Countries. Can we now educate our children to love our brothers?

The seven Patriarchs of the East, respectively: Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Christians in America ) said in their common letter about relations between Christians and Moslems: "With Moslems we live in one country, and together we have a common homeland. Our common relations had in the past difficult and easy days. Today also, we have good days and difficult days. So will be the future. Our vocation does not consist in being Christians anywhere in the world, but being Christians in our Arab and Moslem countries. Here God wants us to be; and here He wants us to be the witnesses of His Son and Eternal Word, our Lord Jesus...With Moslems, we face the same challenges, and share in all services for all; and in all Moslem brothers and sisters we see the image of God. We have to educate ourselves to a spiritual solidarity, that means that when we pray, we cannot come before God, alone, isolated, with our own adoration or petitions and preoccupation. Before God, we have to bear in our spirit and heart our Moslem brothers and sisters, their petitions and preoccupation".

If you do so, you will be starting an EASTER OF LOVE.