Chrism Mass: We have all been anointed for mission

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The following homily was given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during the livestreamed Chrism Mass Thursday, April 9, 2020, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.

Brothers and sisters, at this Mass we are reminded that we were all anointed with the chrism of salvation, that we share in the consecration of Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God. And like Jesus’ anointing, it’s an anointing for mission: the great mission of bringing the Good News of the Gospel to the poor, proclaiming liberty to all those enslaved by sin, giving sight to those blinded by false ideas and ideologies and freeing the oppressed with the true freedom that comes from truth and love, not the false freedom that does harm and brings tyranny. We were strengthened by the Holy Spirit for this mission when we were anointed with chrism at our Baptism and Confirmation. And our priests were empowered in a unique way for this mission when their hands were anointed with chrism at their ordination.

The mission of Christ, the mission of His Body, the Church, cannot be thwarted by the enemy. It can’t be defeated by Satan since Christ is Victor over the devil and his minions. It can’t be thwarted by the present enemy, the coronavirus. Even in the midst of this pandemic, the Body of Christ and each one of us who is a member of His Body is called to live the anointing we have received, to persevere in the mission of Jesus, the mission He entrusted to us.

Usually, I speak about our vocation to “go out” as Jesus instructed us in the great commission: to go out to proclaim the Gospel. I tell our priests not to remain in their rectories or sacristies, but to “go out” to the people. In these days, the message seems to be the opposite: “stay in.” And this is important. We don’t want the virus to spread. It is an imperative of charity to stay in as much as possible. Of course, the imperative of charity requires our doctors, nurses, health care workers and first responders to go out, to go to work in order to bring healing to the sick. The imperative of charity also requires our spiritual doctors, our priests, to go out when a parishioner is seriously ill or dying in order to anoint them and bring them Viaticum, the bread of life. And others have to go out for the sake of the common good: our police and firefighters, grocery workers, garbage collectors, etc. We pray for all those who are going out, out of the necessity of charity, that God will protect them in their work.

Now the majority of people, those who are staying in, who should not go out unnecessarily, must not forsake their Christian mission. It is beautiful for me to see how so many of our people, priests, religious and laity are living the mission and going out as missionary disciples even as they remain physically at home. They go out by praying a lot more during these days, kind of like our beautiful Poor Sisters of St. Clare, who in their cloistered life, rarely going out, yet still serve the mission of the Church, the mission of salvation, serving others by their prayers and penance.

These days, some are going out by bringing food to those who need it, to the elderly and those who are homebound by illness, while others do so by sending money to support their parishes and other charitable causes, struggling so much during this time. Others are going out by calling people on the phone or contacting them by social media, checking on how they are doing, showing love and concern, especially to those who are lonely. I know children who are writing cards to the sick and to doctors and nurses. So many acts of charity and works of mercy being done during these weeks. And literally thousands of the faithful of our diocese are watching livestream liturgies like this, making a spiritual communion and living the Eucharist though they are not able to receive Holy Communion. I’m sure there are a myriad of other ways our people are living their anointing, at