Chrism Mass 2014
We can feel the faith and vitality of our diocesan Church as we gather for the Chrism Mass. There is a special closeness we feel as we pray for our priests who renew their priestly promises at this Mass. There is also a feeling of joy as this liturgy is associated with the holy oils. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a messenger, the Servant of the Lord, who would be anointed and sent to give the people oil of gladness in place of mourning. Our Lord read this passage in the Nazareth synagogue and proclaimed: Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing. Jesus gives us the oil of gladness. He is the Servant of the Lord prophesied by Isaiah. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him and anointed Him to bring glad tidings to the poor.
There is an element of joy associated with the holy oils, especially the chrism. Joy and comfort, healing and grace, will be poured out on those anointed with these oils. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be poured out on those anointed with the chrism in the three sacraments that communicate a permanent character: Baptism, Confirmation, and priestly and episcopal ordination. Chrism evokes joy: the joy of new life, the joy of salvation, the joy of the Gospel. Appropriately, it has a beautiful and fragrant smell.
The chrism also evokes strength. God says of King David in Psalm 89: With my holy oil I have anointed him, that my hand may always be with him and that my arm may make him strong. These words can properly be applied to our priests, men anointed and strengthenedby God to be servants in His Kingdom. My brother priests, at ordination our hands were anointed with chrism, a sign of the Holy Spirit and His power! God took our hands to make them His own in the world, to make them instruments of service to His people. In the Old Testament, anointing was the sign of being taken into service. Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed for God’s service. We were anointed for God’s service, to continue the mission of Jesus. The Spirit came upon us to act for the mission of Jesus, just as the Spirit came upon Jesus to act for the mission of the Father.
Pope Francis gave us a beautiful image in his Chrism Mass homily last year. He spoke about the anointing of the Old Testament priest Aaron (psalm 133). The precious and fragrant oil ran down Aaron’s head, beard, and to the end of his priestly robe. It went to the edges, meaning that his priestly service was to extend to the edges of society. Jesus says this clearly about His own ministry: it was “for the poor, prisoners, and the sick, for those who were sorrowing and alone.” The Holy Father said to the priests: “the ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid… and the heart bitter.” The Pope then said some very important words: “a good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed.” A GOOD PRIEST CAN BE RECOGNIZED BY THE WAY HIS PEOPLE ARE ANOINTED. So I say to our priests today: Do we anoint our people with the oil of gladness? Do we really preach glad tidings to the poor? Do we spread the joy of the Gospel? Do we reach out to those on the edges, the peripheries? Do we devote sufficient time to those who are sick and suffering? Our people desire this anointing. We must go out of ourselves to anoint them, to bring the fragrant oil of the Gospel to all, bringing people light in moments of darkness and hope in the midst of despair. You and I, men who have received the strength of the Spirit, must trust in the power of the Spirit and in the anointing we have received. We must not keep the chrism locked in a jar, but let it flow, bringing people to the sacraments, being eager to baptize, to absolve, to unite couples in marriage, to console the sick and the dying, to bring the people the life of God’s grace. Wouldn’t it be great if in our diocese this coming year, we’d run out of the chrism and holy oils that I consecrate and bless today?
Pope Francis said that priests who anoint little (he means who do not go out of themselves) “instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers.” God forbid that we become mere managers and and not shepherds, CEO’s rather than fishers of men.
God anointed us to go out on mission, to be priests who are missionary disciples. The Pope is calling all Catholics, not just priests, to be missionary disciples. We’ve all been anointed by the Spirit, anointed with the fragrant oil of Chrism, in Baptism and Confirmation. Let’s pray that this anointing we’ve all received will spread, especially to the poor and the lost, to those who are seeking truth and love, and to all whom we encounter in our daily lives.
God asks us to be missionaries right here in our diocese. He asks us to help people, especially our young people, to discover the joy of faith in Christ.