Homily: Chrism Mass

Sacred Heart Cathedral
11th April, 2017

At this Mass of Chrism, we seek renewal and refreshment in our life of faith. In blessing these oils, we ask God to refresh the sacraments in which they are used: baptism, confirmation, the anointing of the sick and the ordination of priests and bishops. In the renewal of priestly promises, we priests dedicate ourselves anew to our ministry, and look confidently to all our faithful people, to support us with their love and prayers.

Thank you for coming today to this Mass, and we have a special place in our prayers today for the priests who are at present sick and in care and unable to be with us.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are all loved unconditionally by God: no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’! When I accept that; when I truly believe and live by it, I gain freedom of heart and mind, and a new insight into the ways God works in our lives. Jesus lists his priorities: all who are restricted or confined are invited to freedom. I realise that I am included, called to new liberty and life. What does Jesus have in mind for me? Where is he calling me to freedom, to life?

Jesus lived among people whose vision was narrow and who found it difficult to accept his inspired words – they were ready even to kill him. Yet he remained part of them, going to pray with them 'as was his custom'.

There can be only one overriding emotion in our hearts at this moment, and it is surely that of joy: the joy of knowing Christ as our loving Lord; the joy of together being with him, of being part of his great company, the Church, and the joy of being heralds of the message of his unfailing love in our world.

Here, in this company, in our beloved Cathedral, we are not afraid of different personal strengths and weaknesses, of difference of character and temperament, for we are bound together by a far stronger bond, by the Lord himself. And we know, in joyful faith, that if we keep our eyes on him then we can see beyond the tensions, disagreements and stresses that daily life so often brings between us.

Time and again, in wonderful words Jesus says to us: 'Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest.' Well, yes. Sometimes we are indeed burdened. It’s the experience of every parent, of every youngster and of every priest - not to mention every bishop!

On the theme of living the joy of faith, Pope Francis reflected on these words of Jesus. He said, and we can take it to heart, that often our biggest burden is a lack of love; or the distances that grow between us; or the sense of loneliness in which we carry out our ministry. But Jesus knows that, and he promises to be with us always, 'so that', he says, 'your joy may be complete.' He says, 'Come to me; I will give you rest....so that your joy may be complete.'

Jesus promises to be with us, to walk with us, whatever we may have to face.

Today in our turn, we renew our priestly promises to Him and, in consequence, we make promises to each other. We promise to be present and attentive to one another, beyond the circles of friendships, beyond the scope of working circumstances, to be faithful to each other simply because it is the same joy that springs up in the heart of each of us, because we love the same Lord and want to serve him. In this we are indeed brothers; we are indeed his family.

As we seek this renewal, it is wise for us to take heed of the obstacles in our way. We live in a world of individualism. The air we breathe tells us to 'do our own thing'. The culture which forms us, tutors us to be in competition with each other, teaches us self-protective mechanisms designed to safeguard the spaces between us and the zones of privacy which, we are told, are so essential to our well-being.

You and I have to be attentive here. Of course there is an element of truth in these claims, but if they come to form our dominant mind-set, we end up cultivating what Pope Francis calls ‘an inordinate concern for our personal freedom and relaxation’. Then we risk cutting ourselves off from the sources of the very joy and peace for which we long.

Pope Francis consistently offers particular advice as an antidote to the tendencies of our day. The Holy Father presents what he calls three magic words which must find a prominent place in our vocabulary. Daily doses of these words will, of themselves, break down the drift towards isolation and self-absorption that we all experience. The words are simple: Please; Thank you and Sorry.

Every time we say 'please', we are inviting others into a real participation in the work of our ministry. Every time we say 'thank you' we acknowledge our need of them, our mutual dependence. Every time we say 'sorry' we express an awareness of our own failures and shortcomings. When our talking rarely includes these three words, then we are drifting into a false world of self-sufficiency and personal isolation.

I use these words now. Thank you, my brother priests, for all your hard work in our service of the Lord. I ask you, please, to sustain your ready cooperation with me and with each other, especially in matters which are demanding and irritating. I readily say ‘sorry’ for the ways in which I get things wrong and add to, rather than help, carry your burdens.

Now we continue with our Mass, with the consecration of the chrism and the blessings of the other oils. We come to the renewal of our priestly commitments.

May these be causes of great joy for each one of us in the depth of our being, and for us all in our life together in Christ in our Church. Then we shall be ready, in the right place to be his disciples, conscious of the joy we receive from him daily, amidst the little things of life, and only too willing to share that joy with all who seek the peace and the mercy that comes with knowing Christ Jesus.