On Tuesday, September 18, 2007, the clergy of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn gathered around His Excellency Bishop Gregory Mansour to celebrate his Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Priesthood. Bishop Mansour celebrated a noon Divine Liturgy concelebrated by all the clergy present at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral. Following is Bishop Mansour’s homily.
The Gospel of today focuses on the argument the apostles had among themselves about who is the greatest (Mark 9:33-37). This took place on the way to Capernaum, the place where Peter had his home. The argument must have been quite remarkable if Jesus felt the need to talk about it afterwards and called the twelve to Himself to remind them that loving service, not self-importance, is to be the hallmark of greatness among them. He even brought a child into their midst to show them that the Kingdom of God is not about adult competition, but rather childlike about trust and love.
Today I take this opportunity to speak to you from Peter’s house in Capernaum. By God’s grace I am like Peter in your midst, and we all know that Peter was the “greatest”! Again competition!
But let me tell you why I am Peter, only by the grace ofelection and holy orders. Every bishop is to be like Peter in the midst of his priests. Like Peter, I have sought to confirm you, shepherd you, love you, feed you, and be a fisher of men for you to increase our vocations. If I have succeeded to be this for you, it is only because, like Peter, I too have had the overwhelming grace of first being loved, confirmed, led, shepherded, fed and forgiven by the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his flock.
I have also been Peter in your midst when I have – to my own shame – denied Christ (Luke 22:54-62), hid from His Cross, compromised myself among gentile and Jew and thus been withstood by Paul (Galatians 2:11). I have also been asked by Christ quo vadis as I walked away from difficulties and trials.
Thus, fully conscious of my strengths and weaknesses – fully aware that I need and so earnestly beseech the grace of God and the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Apostles – and repentant of all my sins and shortcomings, I humbly ask your pardon and prayer that I may truly serve as Peter in your midst.
The argument of the apostles about who was the greatest is perennial. Saint Ignatius of Antioch pleads with his second century Christians to “strive to do all things in harmony with God…the bishop is to preside…the presbyters are to function as the council of the apostles, and the deacons entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Magnesians). I, too, make this same appeal today.
The gift of the priesthood has been a special and singular grace for me, as I know it has for you my brother priests. It has bound me to His Church in an irrevocable bond of communion. I am eternally grateful to Archbishop Francis Zayek for calling me to this lofty order and to Bishop John Chedid for ordaining me. I thank God for the many priests, in particular Ron Beshara and David George, who along with rectors, spiritual directors, mentors and priestly role models and guides have assisted and supported me in this lofty vocation. Lastly, I thank God for my family and friends and for you, my brother priests, for the grace of celebrating this 25th anniversary day together. May Our Lady, Mother of priests, pray for us.
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)