MASS OF CHRISM
24th March, 2015
Is 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9/Rv 1:5-8/Lk 4:16-21
Our Mass today, this special annual moment, celebrates the life and mission we have been given in the Lord. We seek a profound renewal of all that makes us instruments of Christ in our society today. So we approach this celebration with great humility. Here we are to receive the gifts we need if we are to continue to fulfil the great invitation we have been given.
At this Mass we also gather together as Bishop and Priests of the Diocese of Sandhurst in company with the faithful, to strengthen our Communion with each other and to bless the Holy Oils that will be used in the coming year in the Diocese. We also welcome those who have joined us for this beautiful Mass.
The readings today indicate that those who follow the Lord are sent.
In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah we hear the prophet’s acclamation that he has been ‘sent to bring good news to the poor’. This acclamation is continued by Christ himself in the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus appropriates the Old Testament call to acknowledge that ‘the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me and sent me to ‘to bring Good News to the poor ‘
In the Opening Prayer of the Mass, we asked that by sharing in the consecration of Christ - a consecration in the Holy Spirit - we might become witnesses to his resurrection, to his new life, in our society today. Chrism is the outward sign of that consecration. Chrism, the word, which shapes the very title ‘Christ’, and indeed the word ‘Christian’, is at the heart of this ceremony, for in blessing and using chrism we are bound to Christ both in his life and in his mission. Through Chrism we are a consecrated people, set apart for a task, which is consecrating the world to God, through our prayer and through our witness.
At baptism, Chrism proclaims that by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we have become, in the Son, the Father’s beloved sons and daughters. We are called to embody in our daily actions, in our flesh, the fullness of life as our creator means it to be. At Confirmation, this baptismal grace is deepened by a further anointing with Chrism. Enriched with the special strength of the Holy Spirit, we are more firmly united to Christ and called to be his true witnesses, spreading and defending our faith by word and deed. Today we hear and respond afresh to this vocation.
Chrism was also used at our ordination as priests and bishop. We look forward to September when Stephen Bolling is due to be ordained a priest, using the Chrism consecrated today. Through the laying on of hands the Lord chooses men to become sharers in his sacred ministry, acting in the person of Christ the Head and in the name of the Church. Today I want to thank you, my brother priests, for all your faithfulness and ministry. Let no one doubt, the priests of our diocese are good priests, sincere and generous.
However, we priests are thoroughly human, and we do sometimes have flaws. Yet we are glad to be priests, glad to serve the Church we love, willingly seeking renewal today. We are greatly encouraged by those wonderful priests who have ministered before us so remarkably well, and by the enthusiasm of those who are stepping forward to test their vocation in seminary formation.
The promises of our ordination, which priests renew today, are a pledge to work together, maintaining a strong and visible unity with the bishop.
We promise 'to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, not seeking any gain but moved only by zeal for souls' and 'to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and other liturgical rites.' Indeed, these are two of the great callings of the priest by which the Church is both formed and nourished: to preach the Word and to celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments, thereby making present for all people, the saving sacrifice of Christ.
A request which I put to you today with all my heart is: 'Pray for each other; pray that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon all priests and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest.
Today the oil of Catechumens, the oil of the Sick and the newly consecrated Chrism will be taken from here to every parish in the Diocese. May they affect a deep renewal in the lives of all who are anointed with these oils, in the lives of all who accompany them with their love and prayers and in the lives of all who administer these sacraments. Then we will be ready to face all the challenges of our age with serenity, determination and vigour.
Let us, with all our hearts, say in word and in witness of Jesus Christ, as mentioned in the second reading of today’s Mass, that He is and always will be ‘the Alpha, the Omega, the one who is, Who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’ (Rev. 1:8) Together, let us now continue our Mass praying that Jesus will give us a deeper experience of the unity of the Priesthood.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson