Homily: Chrism Mass, 2013

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo

20th March, 2013

I find immense consolation in the fact that the Gospels give us a realistic portrayal of our forbearers in the ministerial priesthood, the apostles. They were ordinary men like us, full of humanity, shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. They were entrusted however, to carry on the most important mission in the history of the world and despite all of their weaknesses, they did an extraordinary job. One might expect that sometimes they might have had to be told something twice, before it urged them to action!

Today in the Liturgy of the Word for the Chrism Mass, God says something to us twice! Once in the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and again, from the lips of Jesus in the Gospel:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
For he has anointed me
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor ………..
To proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

And so it is until this very day. This is what Jesus came for. This is his mission, a mission that has been assigned to us. This is why we are priests.

Jesus has come to his home town of Nazareth. He had just been baptized by John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit had descended on him and God the Father spoke from heaven saying that Jesus was indeed God`s Son, the Beloved, and God’s pleasure was upon him. He speaks those words which describe what he sets out to do.  If we can take a cue from our new Holy Father in his choice of the name Pope Francis, this would seem to indicate his adherence to the very core of the spirit of St Francis, which is the desire to imitate Jesus Christ in everything, as closely as our human nature will permit.

Today’s liturgy also links the process of anointing and this oil of chrism, with the promise of the prophet Isaiah: ‘You shall be named priests of the Lord; they will call you ministers of our God’ (61:6). With great gratitude for our vocation and with humility for all our shortcomings, we renew at this hour our ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call.

Each year the Chrism Mass exhorts us to return to that ‘yes’ to the call of God which we pronounced on the day of our priestly ordination. ‘Here I am!’ we said like Isaiah, when he heard the voice of God. Today’s renewal of the commitment made at priestly ordination, reminds each of us priests of the promises we made that day to serve God, his Church and his people.

We know that Jesus is present in and continues to carry out his saving work in a wonderful way through the sacraments of this Church to which we belong. Traditionally, the Chrism Mass helps us to focus on the sacramental life of the Church, as we bless the holy oils that will be used in the celebration of four of the seven sacraments. This reminds us that God communicates divine life to the human person by means of the sacraments. The Chrism Mass teaches us also that in every diocese of the Catholic Church, the bishop possesses the fullness of the sacramental priesthood of Jesus Christ and it celebrates the close unity of the priests with their bishop in this shared ministry.

We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II. In addition, I am sure we all remember with affection the priests who mentored us in our decisions to become priests. We too must work with young men today to assist them in the discernment of their priestly vocations.


We are a communion of persons, a communion of priests, a communion of saints, who rely upon the witness of those who have gone before us, but also upon the faith, hope and love of those who stand with us and strengthen us each day through lives of prayer and service. 

In his very first words as Pope, Francis has given prominence to evangelisation. In this Year of Faith, with a call to new evangelisation, our first and primary challenge is to re-propose Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life for every man, woman, teenager and child.  This is our task together, my brother priests.  It is an arduous one; one that may, in many of our personal lives, cause us to examine our own manner of life.  But, let us not be afraid! Benedict XVI writes in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: ‘If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge.’

In this Cathedral today, you have come to renew yourselves in the gift that was bestowed upon you at ordination.  You come to recommit yourselves to the personal call you received to be His priests.  With me, you come to rekindle our communal relationship with the very person who, through His Paschal Mystery, has called us to participate in His priestly life in public ministry.  As at the Last Supper, He is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him and, according to his new commandment, with one another.

Although not always present to our consciousness, on the day of our ordination we were asked a number of questions which remain fundamental to our priesthood.  We pledged to be fellow workers with our Bishop, which I believe is an obligation to penetrate into a communion of life and ministry with one another, so that the promise of Jesus Christ can be realized among us and experienced by others. Communion is fundamental to a New

Evangelization.  Therefore, today, dear friends, let us recommit ourselves to be fellow disciples.  I pledge to you, as I did on the day of my Episcopal Ordination, to work for the building up of Communion, the presence of Christ among us, and I ask you to do likewise.

We answered yes to be true and faithful ministers of the Word of God.  Our love and personal devotion for the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood is paramount in calling others into a deeper union with his real presence in the Eucharist.  I ask you, dear brother priests, to spend time in the presence of the Eucharist in your parishes in the presence of your parishioners.  People’s reverence for the Eucharist, I believe, will increase when they see us, not only men of compassion and caring, but also priests who love the Lord, present in the Sacrament of the altar. We will only find this to be true if we practice it.

This is true also of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  A person’s need to be forgiven and be reconciled will become more obvious.  We, too, need this sacrament.   A good penitent is a good confessor.

As your bishop, I ask for a renewal of your commitment today, to a life of communion and unity.  Go on, day by day, doing quietly what you were ordained to do as a priest and pastor, especially by preaching the Word and by celebrating the Sacraments.  My prayer for each of us is that we are spiritually alert enough each day to find the presence of Christ in the people, things, and circumstances of our lives.

We must pray earnestly for Pope Francis, that he will lead us through the challenges that face us in these uncertain times.  Pray for me, as I do for you and your people.

Thank you for your dedicated ministry.  It is my privilege to celebrate this Chrism Mass with you and to be with you as you renew your Priestly vows. 

May the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, culminating with Easter the Day of Resurrection, be for you, your parishioners and family members the source of peace and joy that only Christ can give us.


CHRISM MASS

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo

20th March, 2013

I find immense consolation in the fact that the Gospels give us a realistic portrayal of our forbearers in the ministerial priesthood, the apostles. They were ordinary men like us, full of humanity, shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. They were entrusted however, to carry on the most important mission in the history of the world and despite all of their weaknesses, they did an extraordinary job. One might expect that sometimes they might have had to be told something twice, before it urged them to action!

Today in the Liturgy of the Word for the Chrism Mass, God says something to us twice! Once in the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and again, from the lips of Jesus in the Gospel:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
For he has anointed me
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor ………..
To proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

And so it is until this very day. This is what Jesus came for. This is his mission, a mission that has been assigned to us. This is why we are priests.

Jesus has come to his home town of Nazareth. He had just been baptized by John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit had descended on him and God the Father spoke from heaven saying that Jesus was indeed God`s Son, the Beloved, and God’s pleasure was upon him. He speaks those words which describe what he sets out to do.  If we can take a cue from our new Holy Father in his choice of the name Pope Francis, this would seem to indicate his adherence to the very

core of the spirit of St Francis, which is the desire to imitate Jesus Christ in everything, as closely as our human nature will permit.

Today’s liturgy also links the process of anointing and this oil of chrism, with the promise of the prophet Isaiah: ‘You shall be named priests of the Lord; they will call you ministers of our God’ (61:6). With great gratitude for our vocation and with humility for all our shortcomings, we renew at this hour our ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call.
Each year the Chrism Mass exhorts us to return to that ‘yes’ to the call of God which we pronounced on the day of our priestly ordination. ‘Here I am!’ we said like Isaiah, when he heard the voice of God. Today’s renewal of the commitment made at priestly ordination, reminds each of us priests of the promises we made that day to serve God, his Church and his people.

We know that Jesus is present in and continues to carry out his saving work in a wonderful way through the sacraments of this Church to which we belong. Traditionally, the Chrism Mass helps us to focus on the sacramental life of the Church, as we bless the holy oils that will be used in the celebration of four of the seven sacraments. This reminds us that God communicates divine life to the human person by means of the sacraments. The Chrism Mass teaches us also that in every diocese of the Catholic Church, the bishop possesses the fullness of the sacramental priesthood of Jesus Christ and it celebrates the close unity of the priests with their bishop in this shared ministry.

We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II. In addition, I am sure we all remember with affection the priests who mentored us in our decisions to become priests. We too must work with young men today to assist them in the discernment of their priestly vocations.


We are a communion of persons, a communion of priests, a communion of saints, who rely upon the witness of those who have gone before us, but also upon the faith, hope and love of those who stand with us and strengthen us each day through lives of prayer and service.  

In his very first words as Pope, Francis has given prominence to evangelisation. In this Year of Faith, with a call to new evangelisation, our first and primary challenge is to re-propose Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life for every man, woman, teenager and child.  This is our task together, my brother priests.  It is an arduous one; one that may, in many of our personal lives, cause us to examine our own manner of life.  But, let us not be afraid! Benedict XVI writes in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: ‘If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge.’

In this Cathedral today, you have come to renew yourselves in the gift that was bestowed upon you at ordination.  You come to recommit yourselves to the personal call you received to be His priests.  With me, you come to rekindle our communal relationship with the very person who, through His Paschal Mystery, has called us to participate in His priestly life in public ministry.  As at the Last Supper, He is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him and, according to his new commandment, with one another.

Although not always present to our consciousness, on the day of our ordination we were asked a number of questions which remain fundamental to our priesthood.  We pledged to be fellow workers with our Bishop, which I believe is an obligation to penetrate into a communion of life and ministry with one another, so that the promise of Jesus Christ can be realized among us and experienced by others. Communion is fundamental to a New


Evangelization.  Therefore, today, dear friends, let us recommit ourselves to be fellow disciples.  I pledge to you, as I did on the day of my Episcopal Ordination, to work for the building up of Communion, the presence of Christ among us, and I ask you to do likewise.

We answered yes to be true and faithful ministers of the Word of God.  Our love and personal devotion for the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood is paramount in calling others into a deeper union with his real presence in the Eucharist.  I ask you, dear brother priests, to spend time in the presence of the Eucharist in your parishes in the presence of your parishioners.  People’s reverence for the Eucharist, I believe, will increase when they see us, not only men of compassion and caring, but also priests who love the Lord, present in the Sacrament of the altar. We will only find this to be true if we practice it.

This is true also of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  A person’s need to be forgiven and be reconciled will become more obvious.  We, too, need this sacrament.   A good penitent is a good confessor.

As your bishop, I ask for a renewal of your commitment today, to a life of communion and unity.  Go on, day by day, doing quietly what you were ordained to do as a priest and pastor, especially by preaching the Word and by celebrating the Sacraments.  My prayer for each of us is that we are spiritually alert enough each day to find the presence of Christ in the people, things, and circumstances of our lives.

We must pray earnestly for Pope Francis, that he will lead us through the challenges that face us in these uncertain times.  Pray for me, as I do for you and your people.


Thank you for your dedicated ministry.  It is my privilege to celebrate this Chrism Mass with you and to be with you as you renew your Priestly vows.  

May the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, culminating with Easter the Day of Resurrection, be for you, your parishioners and family members the source of peace and joy that only Christ can give us.

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