Sunday September 16, 2007
On September 16, 2007, His Excellency Bishop Gregory Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, celebrated his Silver Anniversary of Priesthood at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y. Following is the homily Bishop Mansour preached during the Divine Liturgy.
I was told to keep it short, so I offer three words: a word on the Gospel, a word in honor of Mary, and a personal word of thanks.
The portion of the Gospel assigned to the First Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Cross is the story in the Gospel of Mark of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who asked Jesus the honor to sit on His right and left in glory. Jesus asked if they could share the same “cup of pain” as he would. They said they were willing, and we know that they eventually shared in his pain. In Jerusalem, where he was bishop, James was the first apostle martyred (Acts 12:2), and John, exiled to the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9), lived a long life (later in Ephesus) as guardian of the Virgin Mary, yet endured much suffering by what he saw as a witness to Christ.
Nonetheless, Jesus did not grant their request to sit at his right and left. Rather he instructed them, and all the disciples, especially those indignant with such a request, that true greatness comes from loving service.
Oddly enough, the account of the “sons of Zebedee” in Matthew’s Gospel has the mother of the “sons” come to Jesus to make this request. There is also something else in Matthew’s Gospel that is noteworthy: this same mother of the “sons of Zebedee” is also mentioned among the women at the Cross! There, both mothers came to know firsthand the message of the Cross, “a stumbling block for the Jews and complete foolishness for the Gentiles, yet for those who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:23).
What a gift it is for our mothers to be with us both in our glory and in our shame. For this reason, in the Season of the Victorious Cross, my second word is to honor Mary, who at the foot of the Cross, bears with all mothers and all people the labors and burdens of the day.
We wonder how Christ’s mother made room for the mother of James and John, “sons of Zebedee” at the foot of the Cross. How did she manage the jealousies among the apostles, each vying for his place among the most important? How was she able to pray with them in the Upper Room as together they awaited the promised gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? How has she managed to follow God’s people throughout history as mother and guide?
It is this strong, faithful and maternal love, a Marian love, that we call upon in our celebration today of the Eucharist of her Son. To our shame, we reflect on our own power struggles, jealousies, insecurities, adult yet childish competitions that leave us far from her Son and far from one another, and we ask her for help.
Lastly, on a personal note, with John and James, sons of Zebedee, I too have sought the glory of sitting at Christ’s right or left; yet I have been given the grace to also know the “cup of pain” associated with that close following of Christ.
With James and John I have also learned the joy of loving service, as well as the sadness of personal competition. All my priestly assignments, and for that matter, my assignment as bishop as well, have been decisions of my superiors, and for this I thank God. Although I have not chosen any of them, I have chosen Christ and continue to choose Christ and serve Him in the priesthood. For me all the rest is grace! My life has been a life of grace.
On this 25th anniversary of the priesthood, this son of Mary as well as all her priest sons offer this Eucharist and ask her prayer on behalf of her sons and daughters. May God make us pleasing in His sight, and may the prayer of the Virgin Mary, present at the Cross, at Pentecost and here today, be always with us.
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)