After a drawn out postponement, we finally celebrated the Chrism Mass in the Archdiocese of Seattle today. Already in Ordinary Time, we needed to consecrate the Holy Oils as pastors are now delegated to celebrate Confirmations and Reception of new Catholics into the Church.
You can find a link to the homily from today’s Mass as well as the text below.
God bless all of you for keeping the faith as God’s holy, faithful people!
Chrism Mass Homily, Seattle, In the Year of Covid-Pandemic, June 11, 2020
Dear people of God and priests of the Archdiocese of Seattle, within this Chrism Mass today, I personally renew my love for you, for the priesthood, and for the Church. I also wish to express my profound gratitude to each of you for your faith and all you do to lead others to Jesus Christ.
In order to help us better understand how to live our faith, our priesthood, and effectively accomplish the mission of the Church, I wish to explore the highly meaningful and symbolic role of the Sacred Chrism.
The Chrism Oil is made up primarily of olive oil, which is infused with an Essence which gives the much-loved aroma to the Chrism oil. This ‘Essence’ contains various elements, many of which are included in God’s instruction to Moses in order to make the anointing oil which would be used to consecrate the meeting tent and the ark of the covenant which it housed, along with the altar of incense and all the utensils used for making offerings to God. (see Exodus 30: 22-33) Among the many ingredients for making the Essence are incense, and myrrh, those well-known gifts presented to Christ by the wise men at his birth. While the Essence does not contain gold, it does contain by consecration the richness of Christ.
The first anointing oil used by Moses was for consecrating the holiest of places, namely the ark of the covenant which was the accompanying presence of God with the people of Israel. That same covenant was then made ‘new and eternal’ by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who came into the world in human flesh, who through his life, preaching, death and resurrection renewed the divine life within all believers through the gift of salvation. In subtle contrast to the anointing oil of Moses’ time, the Chrism oil consecrated for use by the Church today is to anoint the people of God, not just buildings and utensils, the people of God, who have now become the dwelling place of God; made members of the very Body of Christ. This is Church!
St. Paul instructs us that those who are anointed with this Chrism, at Baptism, Confirmation and upon ordination as Priests, become “the aroma of Christ for God” in the midst of the people of the world. This is Church! A people, a consecrated, holy people, present in the world, who are not of the world, advancing God’s Kingdom, journeying through the world to our eternal home in Christ Jesus.
My people, my brother priests, take note: As the Essence gives the olive oil the aroma that marks it as Chrism, Christ is the Essence of the Church, which is the people of God. During this time of pandemic when we have been unable to enter our churches for purposes of public worship, when practically every reality of our day-to-day life has been shaken or removed, God is reminding us of His priority in all things and above all things. Jesus Christ is our life, our hope, our refuge, our salvation.
At this time in history, Jesus cries out once again: “Come to me.” (Matthew 11:28) “Remain in me.” (John 15: 4) “Live in me.” (see John 6: 22-69) Now is the time to renew our trust in the Lord, to make the words of the Psalmist our own: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124)
My brother priests, I have said this to you recently, but it is important to say it again in the context of this Chrism Mass so that all may hear. Let us not as Church be content to simply return to what was normal. We have been given by God this moment to redefine a new norm which more closely embodies who we are as Church and how we will continue to fulfill the mission of the Church, the mission of Jesus Christ.
Our starting point for this is found in the promises you made at your ordination, which you will renew again today in a few short moments.
Note the promises of Priesthood revolve around relationships and sacraments, not structures and institutions. Also of significance, the promises are primarily about ‘being’ and not so much about ‘doing’. Referring again to the Chrism Oil, I draw our attention to the Essence, which gives the aroma to the Chrism. The word Essence is from the Latin esse which means, ‘to be’ or ‘to exist’.
Just as oil cannot be Chrism without this Essence, Priesthood does not exist apart from Jesus Christ. Priesthood draws its being, its very existence from the person of Jesus Christ, because it is the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Thus, every priest must be in a profound, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. To exercise priesthood apart from this intimate relationship with Christ is to be a fraud before the people of God.
Just because this ‘being’ of Priesthood precedes everything the priest does, is not so say there is not much hard work that lies ahead, but we must focus first on our priestly identity, which is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12:2)
Our priestly promises and the office of Holy Orders orient us towards Christ, and through Christ to his people. We proclaim Christ to and for the people of God. We sanctify the people of God in bringing them the life of Christ through the Sacraments. We shepherd and govern through our self-denying service.
The ministry of the priest is naturally and uniquely oriented to accomplish the mission of the Church, which is the mission of Jesus. Our Gospel today which quotes the Prophet Isaiah gives the outline of Jesus’ ministry. We must recognize with great clarity this mission of Jesus was and is to the people, and so is our priestly ministry:
- Proclaim glad tidings
- Heal the sick
- Proclaim liberty to captives
- Announce a year of favor from the Lord
- Comfort those who mourn
- Give the oil of gladness in place of mourning, and a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit
My brothers, this ‘glorious mantle’ spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah is nothing other than the stole of our priesthood. This present year, 2020, may presently seem as the year of plague, but we may soon look upon it as a ‘year of favor from the Lord,’ as a moment of grace and conversion.
Dear priests, as we renew our promises today, let us pray for the grace to recognize the Church in her true Essence, which is the holy, faithful, people of God. Let us renew again our zeal for relationships, with Jesus, with our brother priests, and with the people. Let us lead our people to Jesus Christ and strengthen the bonds of faith between them.
The Church is not just about the people, it is the people. Thus, our priesthood leads us to:
- Proclaim God’s Word – speaking to and with God’s people
- Sanctify by offering the Sacraments to God’s people
- Shepherd by walking humbly with the people of God.
My brothers, let us strengthen our resolve today to accomplish the work of Christ and the Mission of the Church. Let us bring this aroma of Christ to the people of God.