You can read the homily below, or listen to the homily in the video which starts at the 37:50 mark.
The Chrism Mass is always a gathering of the local Church family, with all the priests and representatives of the faithful from every parish to receive the oils that we consecrate, for the liturgical life of the faith family. And, as with every Eucharistic celebration, it is the Lord who summons and gathers us, and we gather in communion with the Church throughout the world.
This is the reality of the Church that I wish to reflect upon this evening – the Church as the people of God.
The starting point of understanding the Church is as a family of believers, as the people of God.
We are a people who believe in and follow Christ – in other words we share a common calling through baptism which makes us all disciples. Here is a profoundly, rooted, pastoral reality.
To understand the Church as the people of God is to recognize that we are a community. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council state, we are community journeying through history constantly discerning the signs of the time, here and now. To carry out the mission of Christ the Church has the duty of scrutinizing these signs of times and interpreting them in light of the Gospel. (Lumen Gentium)
Another Council document, Gaudium et Spes, makes clear that the Church exists in the world and has a responsibility to the world. All of the baptised are accountable to the social, historical reality in which we live. We cannot only be concerned with the inner realities and workings of the church, nor can we be solely concerned with self. As disciples we are responsible for the wellbeing of one another, of a just society, care of the created order, care for the human family. Our faith cannot be bracketed off in one small part of our life or world. Rather, our faith in Christ is what frames our entire life – and as such – is to touch every aspect of life.
The Church is a dynamic and living reality, and thus is always in a process of reform – every people – every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in fidelity to her own calling. And here it is in plain language: The Church exists to evangelize – it does not exist for itself. We are called to respond with a pastoral heart to the realities of today.
To be even more specific, the life of the Church is about our life in Jesus Christ. Since renewing the Church means being faithful to our calling, let us look at the life of Christ more closely, and let us review again his mission, to better understand ours as the people of God.
Jesus uses the clear language of the Prophet Isaiah at the beginning of his public ministry to tell the world why he came. He is filled with the Holy Spirit – to bring the Good News to the poor – to bring liberty to captives – in other words, salvation to the world. He clarifies the mission again when he speaks of the final judgement, only this time making it clear that his mission will become the mission of all: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, shelter the homeless, give drink to the thirsty, bury the dead.
In his public ministry, Jesus gathered the apostles around him to teach them intimately by word and example. He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of heaven, cure the sick, raise the dead and drive out demons. (Mt 10, Mk 6, Lk 9). Similarly, Jesus was always speaking to the masses of people who gathered to hear him teach and to witness his many miracles. From them He also sent, two-by-two, a group of 72 others with similar instructions: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. .. behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:1-23)
In each instance, Jesus instructs them they are to carry no money bag and few provisions, as if to say their sole resource is Himself!
Then, before he returns to the Father after his resurrection, he formalizes the mission one last time after sharing the gift of his Holy Spirit he gives the apostles the great commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations – teach them to observe all I commanded you – and know I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28)
Jesus taught his disciples that he came from the Father. He needs us to also understand what he taught his disciples: “He who receives you receives me and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40) Again, in John’s Gospel he said: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (John 20:21) My brother priests, dear people of God, if our efforts to renew the Church are to bear fruit, we must draw near to Christ. If we are to renew the life of the Church, we must be clear about our baptismal calling and be faithful followers and disciples of Christ. As Apostles, as disciples, we do not speak for ourselves, but for the person of Jesus alone.
The Church does not exist for itself, but for evangelization. Our work is to carry Christ into the world, and to lead others to Christ. Our life is to be found in Christ and our life’s work is to sense and serve Christ in others. Jesus is not a concept or an idea, but a living person, now risen and fully revealed as the Son of God. As disciples who share the mission of Christ, we desire to associate our life exclusively with him, and as we do, to trust that his desire is to bind us to himself. This is the purpose of the oils we consecrate tonight – to consecrate and bind us to Christ and his mission.
Our Opening Prayer for Mass this evening is instructive:
O God, who anointed your Only Begotten Son with the Holy Spirit and made him Christ and Lord, graciously grant that, being made sharers in his consecration, we may bear witness to your Redemption in the world.
Our priests will shortly renew their promises of ordination, which includes the resolve to be more united with Christ and more closely conformed to him. All of us who share in the life of Christ by Baptism and the Sacraments of the Church are to become a pleasing fragrance of Christ in the world.
Through this celebration tonight as we approach Holy Week and the Easter celebration, let us call down upon us and all God’s people the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit through whom Mary conceived the body of Christ, the same Spirit who raised from death the Body of Christ, the same Spirit who descends for the consecration of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, the same Holy Spirit who makes us, the faithful people of God into the Body of Christ.
May Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us. May Mary who through the Incarnation served as a bridge joining us to God (Pope Francis) accompany us on our journey to discover her Son, intercede for us to grow in faith in Christ, and protect us in our life of selfless service to Christ, “him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever.
Amen. (Revelation 1: 5-6)