As of Today, I Entrust Myself to You. “With You I Am Christian, For You I Am a Bishop.” Today I Am Yours.
Bishop Gregory Mansour Homily At Enthronement
Following his enthronement ceremony, Bishop Gregory John Mansour presided over a solemn Divine Liturgy. After reading from the Gospel of John, the gospel of the Good Shepherd, he addressed his church for the first time as a bishop. Following is the full text of his homily.
In the Gospel today we have the story of the Good Shepherd who freely lays down his life for his sheep…he is not a hired hand, he is shepherd. I too am ready to lay down my life for you, and like Peter and the first bishops of Antioch, I am not afraid to do so generously.
I chose “no greater love” for my motto, not because I am good at it, but rather….to encourage myself to live it.
In this I have had many teachers, mostly, but not only priests. Spouses lay down their lives for each other, parents, sometimes single parents, do this for their children, generous single people do this for their families and others, those who are primary care-givers do this silently. Our priests do this every day in the hidden arena of their parish life.
The Gospel of Christ does not exist in mere words. We are not like the Mardi Gras partyers who forget about the beginning of Lent. Good Friday and Easter Sunday mean less to us if there is not also a Holy Saturday, a day when we are asked to make peace with God, neighbor our own soul. We are admonished in our prayer of that day “You who are angry, find another God other than the Crucified One.” Thus Holy Saturday is a day for reconciliation, it brings us to the Peace of Easter Sunday, and face- to- face with the God of Peace.
Like Holy Saturday, the day of the Last Supper, Holy Thursday, is complete only by Christ’s washing the feet of the disciples. Thus humble service and the Eucharist are forever linked. “What good is it to have faith,” James asks, “ and no action to correspond.” This faith is meaningless. Thus, Holy Saturday gives meaning to Easter, and loving service gives meaning to our Eucharist.
Today in this Eucharist, I give thanks to God for all the many gifts He has bestowed on me in my life. I give thanks and I make an offering.
The word “Eucharist” in Greek means “thanksgiving.” The word Qorbono, in Syriac means “offering.” Thus, today I bring my gift to the altar, my very self and I give thanks.
In this Mary is our model. She came to God in thanksgiving, she offered herself, her very person, and in her womb abided the One who dwells in the heavens.
Like Mary we, too, come today in thanksgiving. We offer our gifts, ourselves, and by this offering we receive communion with the living God who dwells in the humble heart as in a mansion.
In this context, I want to offer:
Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, my respect and obedience,/ to Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, my love and loyalty, to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Apostolic Nuncio, who represents the Holy Father in our midst, a special welcome, to the Maronite Synod of Bishops, a prayer for solidarity.
Specifically to Archbishop Francis M. Zayek, our founder, Bishop John G. Chedid, my mentor Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, my brother bishop, and Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi, my teacher, ..as well as to Archbishop Harb of Lebanon, Bishop Mahfouz of Brazil, Bishop Khoury of Canada, Bishop Abi-Younes of Mexico, Father Khalil Alwan, the Superior of the Krimist Fathers, Monsignor Khairallah of the Patriachal Synod.
To Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishops Basil Schott, Stefan Soroka, and Peter Gerty and the many Latin and Eastern Catholic archbishops, bishops and priests here today, among them Bishop Robert A. Brucato, representing Cardinal Egan, Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn, Bishop Migilore, Holy See Representative to the United Nations, Bishops of New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, Bishops of the Melkite, Armenian, Syriac, Syro Malabar, Ukrainian, and Ruthenian Catholic Churches here present, my special thanks and my love.
To the clergy, religious and the laity of the Eparchy of Saint Maron . As of today, I entrust myself to you. St. Augustine said, “With you I am Christian, for you I am a Bishop.” Today I am yours.
A special word of respect and esteem to the priests of the Eparchy of Saint Maron, the hidden heroes of our Church. We know that we are called to a higher standard, to a stricter account by one God. A word of thanks to the priests and to those who have gone before us.
A special word of thanks to Archbishop Zayek, founding bishop of the Maronite Church in the USA, and Bishop Doueihi who contributed so much to her life and who poured their life into this church. Thank you.
To Monsignor Sadek and this Cathedral Parish, my new home, I come to you as a Pastor, a brother and a fellow Christian.
To the Abbot of Holy Trinity Maronite Monastery, Mothers Superior of the Antonine Sisters and Hermits of Jesus, Rector of our Maronite seminary, monks, nuns, deacons and subdeacons and wives, seminarians, the members of the National Apostolate of Maronites (NAM),the Order of Sharbel, the Maronite League from Lebanon, the International Maronite Foundation, members of the Catholic Near East Welfare Society (CNEWA), Catholic Home Missions Board, distinguished ecumenical guests, especially Archbishop Khouri, representing Metropolitan Phillip Saliba of the Orthodox Church,to civil and non Catholic friends and guests, welcome.
Welcome to Congressman Lahood and Kildee, The Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations, the Consul General of Lebanon, members of the news media …
To my Father, George here present, and Amal, my brothers and sisters, Brian, Joni, John, Suzie, George, Najib, Wissam, Monie and their families, my aunts, uncles, cousins, relatives and friends, all who have come today as well as those who were unable to travel.
For my departed mother Gloria Farhat Mansour a special prayer of gratitude, as well for my departed cousins Dolores and Ann, and my friend Mark, and for all those whom I love, and who love me, and whose lives have helped form me as a Christian and as a priest.
For all this and for so much more, I come to give you thanks O Lord, and to make my offering part of the offering of the church throughout the world.
We have a common work to do, my friends, it is the work of the Church, the work of salvation. I cannot do this work by myself nor do I want to…I need your help, we need to work together. By virtue of our baptism, we are collaborators with Christ.
To begin, we must protect, respect and honor life which is a gift from God. This begins with the unborn… People ask why does the Church insist on this principle of respect for life? Because it is foundational, the bedrock of a civilization of love, a culture of life which we are called to create and promote. It is not a Catholic issue, but a moral and justice issue. We defend the marginalized, serve the forgotten, the poor, the immigrant… we protect children who have the right to be safe in our society, and grow up well-loved, respected and valued. We live and we love the Gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ…
The Church like our mother, is as dear to us as is Christ. We do not use her for our own gain, exploit her or, unduly criticize her. She is a beautiful instrument in the hand of God to bring good news to the world. Thus, by our lives we preserve and promote her spiritual, moral and cultural heritage.
We are willing to challenge society, and not just accept everything as it is; we bring to society a respect for the dignity of each human person, we promote the beauty of chastity (there is nothing wrong with loving this virtue today), we honor the gift of married love, and we place family life first.
We are practicing Catholics, not perfect, but practicing. We are not “grocery cart” Catholics who pick and choose what we believe. Rather, we have the courage to accept the fullness of the truth as taught by the Magisterium of the Church. Our parishes are an oasis for anyone looking for a spiritual home, especially Maronites who want to come home, as well as all Middle Eastern Christians of different denominations.
Lebanon is a holy place for us, a spiritual homeland, a wonderful yet fragile experiment of Christian – Muslim conviviality. Thus with our Patriarch, whom we fully support, we are not afraid to wage a war of persuasion and friendship for her integrity, her mission, her right to self governance, and her free decision, and to promote her cultural value and heritage as a gift to the world – West and East.
We strive for a new solidarity with Maronite Catholics everywhere. As the Maronite Patriarchal Synod has been saying, we are one Church….yet.
We are also part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Thus we also take our proper place among all the Catholic Churches under the Holy Father, and rather than to turn-in on ourselves, we turn out toward others, and place ourselves in their service, properly equipped with the beautiful tools of the liturgy, music, poetry, language, and culture of our Maronite Catholic and Aramaic heritage, so close to the culture of Jesus Himself.
We have much to do. With God’s help, and by His loving plan, we begin anew, together. Strengthened by the work of those who have gone before us, we begin.
As you leave the Cathedral today, I hope you will pray for me and for the Church so that God will give us the courage and the grace to fulfill this apostolic mission. Let us also say a special prayer for Lebanon, and for peace in the Middle East.
From my heart to yours, thank you. May Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd and the light of the world, and our Blessed Mother Mary keep you in their loving care.
Saints Maron, John Maron, Sharbel, Rafka, soon to be canonized Blessed Hardini, may the Blessed Massabki Brothers, and one day we hope, Patriarch Doueihi, and all the Maronite saints, pray for us.
As we prepare to offer ourselves in this Eucharist, let us together profess together our faith.