Homily from Mar Ivanios Day Mass
Mar Ivanios Day
July 15, 2016
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Now and forever!
I do indeed praise Jesus Christ for the honor and the joy of being with you, fellow pilgrims, for this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Mar Ivanios Day.
What an inspiration you are with your prayer, presence, processions, and pilgrimage.
I praise Jesus Christ for the happiness of being with my brother cardinal and dear friend, Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, the Major Archbishop-Catholicos of Trivandrum, who so graciously invited me for this occasion.
I praise Jesus Christ for brother bishops and priests, for deacons and seminarian, consecrated women and men religious, and for the wonderful faithful people of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.
I praise Jesus Christ for the gift of Mar Ivanios, as we devoutly gather at his tomb on the 63rd Anniversary of his heavenly birthday.
The deep faith of Mar Ivanios was like the mustard seed spoken of by Jesus, like the five loaves multiplied miraculously by Jesus; he began 86 years ago with only five people, trusting that truth and unity would be victorious. Today we rejoice in the harvest with ten dioceses and an exarchate.
Personally, I thank you, dear members of the Syro-Malankara Catholic family, for the gift you are to the Church universal. From the beginning, Mar Ivanios had a special affection for America, visiting us in 1948, meeting President Truman, my predecessor, Cardinal Francis Spellman, and stopping by the seminary of the Archdiocese of New York, St. Joseph’s. He nurtured a lifelong friendship with the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in New York.
Today, we in America praise Jesus for your priests, sisters, and lay faithful whose deep Catholic faith, joy, and sense of family is an inspiration to us all.
I praise Jesus Christ for the apostolic work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which allows us to accompany you with our prayers and alms, and am glad that Monsignor John Kozar is here with us.
I praise Jesus Christ for the lessons Mar Ivanios has taught us: especially his trust, his emphasis on the Imitation of Christ, and his thirst for unity and reconciliation.
First, his trust! Next week, I will be in Krakow for World Youth Day with Pope Francis, and will visit the Divine Mercy Shrine. “Jesus, I trust in Thee,” the aspiration made famous by St. Faustina, would resonate with the prayers of Mar Ivanios. To dare to begin his project of a revived Syro-Malankara Rite; to trust that five people could multiply to 500,000; to initiate religious congregations and educational endeavors when logic and worldly reason told him all of this was silly and impractical… only a man of deep trust could have persevered. From heaven today, as with Jesus, Mary, and St. Thomas, he watches this huge crowd, his descendants, this Servant of God is not surprised, as he turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, I trusted in you!”
The second lesson Mar Ivanios teaches us is his stress on the Imitation of Christ. It is said that a student learns what the Master teaches, but a disciple imitates how the master lives. “The life of Christ is all the wisdom we will ever need,” wrote Mar Ivanios. “For me, to live is Christ,” as St. Paul taught. No wonder Mar Ivanios dedicated his two new congregations to the Imitation of Christ. “Imitate Christ so the people will imitate you,” he told the Bethany Fathers and Bethany Sisters. When he founded his schools, he would tell the new faculty and students, “The Gospel is our most excellent textbook.”
Today, as we honor him, we honor Christ. When we walk with Mar Ivanios, as thousands of you did, we walk with Jesus.
The third lesson is unity and reconciliation. Because Mar Ivanios imitated Christ, he loved the Truth, for Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” And the Truth is that we are all one with God as our Father and Jesus as our Savior.
No wonder he chose Veritas vos liberabit, “The truth will set you free” as the motto of the college which bears his name.
In a culture of lies, we need the Truth;
In a world of division and fear, we need unity;
On a planet of violence, antagonism, and suspicion, we need reconciliation.
That’s why the Church, the world, needs Mar Ivanios! You, his spiritual children light up the world, as your candles did last night during the procession.