Tonight the People of God gathered in the Cathedral of St. James in Seattle to celebrate the Chrism Mass. We had a great gathering of priests along with a full representation of the People of God.

Below are both the homily in print, and the video from the Mass. The homily begins at the 38:30 mark.

I can recall my mother saying any number of times that some of her happiest years were when she had 4 preschoolers at home. Of course, eventually the 5th and 6th children came along to complete the family, and no doubt added to my mother’s joy. Then, as we all matured and began to go our separate ways as adults, the happiest moments for mom were when all of us were home, and the culmination of that joy was having us all around the dining room table together for a meal.

For me as your bishop, this Chrism Mass represents one of those joyful moments for me, when the family of God, in all her members are gathered in the household of this cathedral around the table of the Lord. This is a beautiful representation of the Church as a loving Mother.

My dear priests, this ‘loving Mother’, the Church, and all her children, which also includes each of you,  expresses in this Mass each year her deep gratitude to you for your work, generosity and dedication. In just the past few months, this Archbishop has recognized your particular dedication as we have worked together, as Partners of the Gospel, to plan for the clergy assignments that will usher in the reorganization of parish life beginning this July 1st. As your Archbishop, I am profoundly grateful for each one of you, and for your priestly ministry and service in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and for your collaboration in ministry.

I also wish to express my gratitude to all our deacons and their wives for their dedication and tremendous service to the Church on a weekly basis. Similarly, a word of gratitude to the many lay ecclesial ministers who likewise serve alongside our priests and deacons on a daily basis. To our men and women religious and all the laity who serve the mission of the Church in any and every way, thank you. 

As we gather tonight, it is clear that the Lord calls all of us to co-responsibility for the life and mission of the Church. And in this new moment, as we prepare to come together as new parish families, our common call to spread the Good News of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ, is front and center. 

Tonight, as our priests prepare to renew their promises, let’s reflect for a moment on the Church’s understanding of the priesthood since the Second Vatican Council, and it’s intimate link with the entire Mystical Body of Christ. 

The priest, like every other member of the body of believers draws his life and vocation from the same font of baptism as every other member of the Body of Christ. As in a family, a priest is called forth from the ranks of the People of God and formed at the very core of his being into the likeness of Christ, for the service of God’s holy, faithful people. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught:

By sacred ordination and by the mission they receive from their bishops, priests are promoted to the service of Christ, the Teacher, the Priest, and the King. They share in His ministry of unceasingly building up the Church on earth into the People of God, the Body of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. (PO #1)

Notice that the Council Fathers link the ordained priesthood closely to the common priesthood by further stating:

The Lord Jesus, “whom the Father has made holy and sent into the world” (John 10:36), has made His whole Mystical Body share in the anointing by the Spirit with which He Himself has been anointed. (Mt. 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38) For in Him all the faithful are made a holy and royal priesthood. (PO #2)

Notice how the Council Fathers teach that all the faithful are made a holy and royal priesthood. In a separate decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, from the same Council we hear this instruction: 

In the Church there is a diversity of service but unity of purpose. Christ conferred on the apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity, too, share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own role to play in the mission of the whole People of God in the Church and in the world.

Reflecting on the Church tonight as a loving Mother, and the whole people of God as a family, helps us see we all have the same origin – Christ – and all the baptized, no matter their unique vocation share in the same mission – which is the mission of Jesus Christ, to spread the kingdom of Christ everywhere, that we might bring Christ’s saving redemption to all people, so that every person may be drawn deeper into relationship with God.

In Christ, we are in this mission together. 

A few years ago while on retreat with a group of bishops, Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB from Mt. Angel reflected on the important shift of emphasis in the Eucharistic celebration after the Second Vatican Council which also highlights the complementarity of the priesthood and the laity. In the old Missal, a rubric stated that Mass begins when the priest is ready. In the new and present Roman Missal, the rubric states: Mass begins when the People of God are assembled. (GIRM #47) 

This simple shift in emphasis helps us understand one of the goals we are aiming for in the reorganization of our parish life under Partners in the Gospel. With great love and respect for those who hold the sacred office of Holy Orders, and without diminishing that necessary office in any way, we seek at the same time to elevate the many gifts of every member of the Church who share in the royal priesthood of Christ by the dignity of their own baptism and confirmation. Even the opening antiphon for Mass today speaks of this biblical truth: “Jesus Christ has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father. To him be glory and power for ever and ever.” (Revelation 1:6) Similarly the Prophet Isaiah offers this thought from the first reading: “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called.” (Isaiah 61)

My friends, our ecclesiology and theology, our understanding of the Church matters. It is important that we hold these proper perspectives of the Church in common, in communion, in unity. The Chrism Mass is our annual expression of the union that is ours in Christ, held in communion with Pope Francis, and through the successor of Peter with the universal Church. Our communion is in Christ, who makes us one, who makes us whole, who makes us holy, which is the will of God the Father, our sanctification.

Just as my own family is not perfect, neither is the Church, at least in her members. The Church is perfect in the sense that Christ abides in her, in his Divinity. But the Church will always be human, and though redeemed by Christ, She will forever be in need of healing. So, in this annual celebration, we bless and consecrate the oils that are used to make Christ sacramentally present in those moments when we stand most in need of the healing that only Christ can bring. 

While the life of the Church flows from the ministry, life, death and resurrection of Christ, She is forever animated by the Holy Spirit. 

As with Christ, so for all of us, the Spirit calls us out of ourselves to bring “glad tidings” to those who are in such great need of God’s healing, reconciling and life-giving love. 

This Holy Spirit is at the heart of all our efforts in Partners in the Gospel. While we have been rightly focused on a lot of the structural reorganization that must be done – the prayerful discernment around configurations of the Parish Families, the re-establishment of our lay ecclesial ministry formation program of Christifideles, and the process of appointing pastors and parochial vicars – we need to remind ourselves that all of this is at the service of becoming more effective in sharing the “glad tidings,” the Good News of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit has been and will continue to be leading and guiding all of our efforts.

It would be so easy for us to turn in on ourselves and get lost in the internal restructuring that necessarily needs to happen. We must keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is animating this process so that we can more effectively encounter Jesus Christ, accompany one another on the journey of faith, and joyfully carry out the mission of the Church, the mission of Jesus Christ.

This is the “why” of Partners in the Gospel. Everything that we are doing is at the service of spreading the Good News, of forming more disciples to carry out the mission by living the dignity of our baptism. May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Ephesians 1:3) that we may grow in our ability to listen and be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the days ahead.

May our efforts to renew this local Church in the model of a loving Mother know the prayerful intercession of our loving Mother, Mary. 

Mary, Mother of the Church, 

            Pray for us!