||As one of the Consecration Prayers this evening reminds us, Christ entered our human experience as God in order to heal the world. It is Christ the Physician we call upon tonight through the Holy Spirit to bless and consecrate the Holy Oils of the Church. Through the Sacraments and the ‘sign’ of these Holy Oils, Christ continues His work of healing us that we may share fully in the Divine Life He offers and renews through His Church.In our Gospel this evening, Jesus stands in the midst of worshipers at the Synagogue in Nazareth as the living Word of God proclaiming the words of the Prophet Isaiah,“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. . . Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This very same Jesus performs the very same ministry in his Church today. He does this work through the anointed; namely, you and me. Through the Holy Oils we bless tonight, the same Spirit of the Lord rests upon his anointed, for the same work. Indeed, it is Christ who dwells in us through the sacraments; the same Christ who ministers through us through his anointing.I have been reading lately the works of Blessed Columba Marmion. He has this relevant insight to share with us:“We lost everything at once by a single fault of Adam, but in Baptism God does not give us back at once all the integrity of the Divine gift. In order that it may be a source of merit because of the efforts it calls forth, He leaves in us concupiscence, the source of sin, which tends to diminish or destroy the Divine life. Therefore our whole existence ought to be the realization of what Baptism inaugurates.” (Christ, The Life Of The Soul, p. 161)
Our whole life ought to be the realization of what Baptism inaugurates!
This reminds me of the story of the young Native American boy who had a vision of two wolves fighting. One was evil and one was good. This vision was so disturbing to the young man that he went to the holy man of his tribe to seek its interpretation and meaning for his life. After telling him of the vision, he asked the holy man: “which of these two will win?” The holy man told him: “the one that you feed.”
This seems to be the challenge of our culture today; perhaps, even the challenge of our church today. Minimally, we are starving the Holy Spirit by our lack of attention to the spiritual life. More specifically, many Catholics are starving the presence of the Holy Spirit through inattention to the Sacramental life. God’s desire is that we be ‘intentional’ about our faith as we consciously seek to cooperate with Christ in our service of him and his Church. We are called to actively cooperate with the Divine Will and the Divine Life shared with us in Christ.
For us as Catholics and Christians, this evening’s Liturgy gives great instruction. God, through His Son and the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Church longs to nourish His Divine life within us. Tonight, the Church longs to remind believers of the precious gift that is ours in Jesus Christ, and the mysterious yet real way that He shares the gift of His life with us through his anointing and the grace of the Sacraments.
In the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus tells the assembly that He has come to proclaim a Year of Favor from the LORD. Indeed, no greater favor has ever been shared with the world than the arrival of Jesus and the manner in which He shares His life with us through the Paschal Mystery. Listen again to the instruction Blessed Columba Marmion:
“Grace is the principle of life in us, but it is a germ we must cultivate; it is that kingdom of God within us that Our Lord Himself compares to a grain of mustard-seed which becomes a great tree. So it is with the Divine life in us.” (Christ, The Life Of The Soul, p. 161)
So who casts this seed of Divine life into our souls at Baptism? It is the Church. Why the Church? Because, Christ established the Church as His Bride. Christ made manifest the Church that He could keep His promise to remain with us until the end of time. Christ established the Church as His own body. That is why we call the Church the Body of Christ. Christ left His Church in the world to celebrate His Sacraments that He may continue to share His Divine life with us.
Our life journey is to die to sin and to live more and more for God. In other words, our life is to be an expression and participation in the Paschal mystery of the dying and rising of Christ in us. We are to be free from the world and its attractions in order to be free for God. In the words of St. Paul, we are to die to the old man, Adam, that the new man, Jesus Christ, may live more fully in us. This is the journey of faith that is supported and nourished by our sacramental life, and this grace pours forth into us the life of Christ that we may take up our life in Him.
All of this is ours through the life of grace, and this grace is granted us through the sacraments we celebrate with these holy oils we consecrate tonight. St. Paul sums it up nicely when he says: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
My dear friends, this is the reality of what is ours in Christ; in and through the Church. To be clothed in Christ is the beginning of our journey back to God and sharing in Divine life. The Chrism that is blessed tonight is administered in Baptism, Confirmation and Priesthood. Through this holy oil, and more specifically, through the Sacraments of which they are a symbolic part, we are marked indelibly for Christ.
My brother priests, in a few moments, I will ask you to renew your own priestly promises. We are privileged to receive this anointing of Christ in three separate moments of our life; Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. With this privilege comes great responsibility to more fully “be” the person of Christ. As priests, we stand in the person of Christ. Our ministry is to be the expressed intimacy and love of the Beloved for his spouse, the Church. Our celibacy is the key to our intimacy with Christ, so that our love for His Bride may be fully and only his love lived through us.
As priests, we are to share intimately in the paschal mystery. We are to become friends not only of Jesus, but also of his cross. The cross is the key to an open heart. Anyone marked by and for Christ through his anointing will experience the cross and the wounds of love. The question for us as his ministers is: Do these wounds create in us resentment or greater love? Do the wounds created by the sacrifice and generosity required of a true shepherd in the heart of Christ harden our hearts, or serve as entry points to better understand Him who chose us and sends us in his name? Do we take our hardships to Christ asking him to remove them, or to teach us through them? Do we ask that our will be done, or his? In short, is the priesthood we live ‘mine’ or ‘his’?
My dear brothers, you are anointed by Christ. You are anointed for Christ. You are anointed for service to Christ’s Bride, the Church. May this oil of gladness strengthen you and always keep your hearts docile and supple to his constant, healing, loving embrace. To all of Christ’s Body, the Church, I say: Let us not starve the seed of sanctity sewn in our hearts. Let us not starve Goodness. Rather, let us feed and nourish the faith planted in our hearts through Baptism.
There is no more fertile nourishment than Christ himself who comes most intimately and directly through his Sacraments, and these precious gifts are found only in his Church. There is no separating Christ and his Church. Christ and his Body are one.
If we want eternal life, and we do, then we need Christ. And if we want Christ, and we do, then we need his Church. Christ comes with Divine Life, abundance of Life. Let us rediscover the banquet awaiting us in the cupboard of the Church. Let us throw open the doors of our hearts and feed always upon his Goodness, and thus the words of the Psalmist will truly become our own: Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord! (Psalm 89)