Homily by Bishop Gregor Mansour for the Youth Gathering
The Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, North Jackosn, Ohio, July 21, 2006
My brothers and sisters, young people, friends of Lebanon:
These past several days have been tragic, heartbreaking, and very, very sad. Before our Patriarch left for Lebanon he stopped in Washington to speak to officials of the United States Government and to offer the Liturgy at Our Lady of Lebanon Church. At the end of the Liturgy, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the recently installed Archbishop of Washington, said to us in the midst of difficult times tragic times, “prayer is always efficacious” in other words, prayer is always appropriate, meaningful, helpful and able to draw us closer to God and closer to one another. In the midst of difficulties, pray.
During these tragic events happening to Lebanon, we gather to pray. We must also condemn the Israeli attacks as wrong, and Hezbollah’s actions and armed presence in Lebanon as wrong. With the Holy Father, we once again call for an Israeli and Palestinian two-state solution. We blame everyone involved; yet we must also blame ourselves as well. Have we done all we can to pray for and work for peace?
And so we gather today to pray, to pray for peace. In New York our Patriarch said: “Look to Mary, for it is at her shrines in Lebanon that we find Christian and Muslim. Look to Mary, for she is the peacemaker, the grieving mother, the faithful disciple, the courageous woman who from tragedy, brings new life and hope.” Look to Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, who is still today our helper and advocate.
In Washington our Patriarch asked, is war inevitable? He answered, no, war is the choice of man, and man can also choose peace. And then the Patriarch asked, “Are there no peacemakers left?”
In Chicago, Patriarch Sfeir was asked by the youth, “What is your favorite passage from the Bible?” Directly, the Patriarch answered: “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” This is the sum of the law and the prophets. This is the essence of the teachings of Christ.
The Gospel of today is the story of the Good Samaritan. Remember Samaritans were the northern neighbors of the Jews and they were enemies. The story reminds us of today. In the story of the Gospel, Jesus says that a Samaritan, an enemy of the Jews, found a man who had been victimized, attended to his need and assured that upon his return, his “neighbor” would be well taken care of. In this story, Jesus helps us to understand the ancient command “love your neighbor as yourself,” and that “neighbor” also means “enemy”. One’s enemy is entitled to be loved as one’s neighbor. This is radical, revolutionary; the world cannot be the same since Jesus.
In Lebanon these days one can see repeated over and over again on Lebanese television, that is, when we are able to get the signal, the song Anta Khayee il Insanee, the Arabic words which mean “ you are my brother in humanity.” The song cries out “no matter what race, what religion, what political persuasion you belong to you are still my brother in humanity”.
My brothers and sisters, young people, who is the neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan? Jesus shows us that it was the one who showed him mercy. Is there any more mercy in this world? As our Patriarch says: “Are there any more peacemakers left?” Jesus told us not to treat others as they deserve, nor as enemies should be treated, but treat them with the love and respect in the way that you yourself would like to be treated. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ.
On a final note, and just to raise your spirits a little, I will tell you a story. As we were walking with the Patriarch into the studios of CNN, a couple of the young ladies met him there and were taking him into a room. When I asked them we they were going, they said we are taking him to “makeup”. I asked what? They said, we are taking him to the “makeup” room. I said young ladies, I am sure that the world will accept the Patriarch just as he is. And so they did.
Brothers and sisters whatever you choose in your life, if your vocation is to be a priest, a religious sister, or a brother, if God calls you to the married life or if you never get married and God calls you to a generous single life, whatever your life calling, whatever you choose, whatever you hope and pray for in life, I hope that you will also choose to be a peacemaker, like the Good Samaritan. Amen.
(Reprinted with permission.)