Chrism Mass

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Chrism Mass
26 March 2013

In a way which we were not expecting, the period of Lent this year has been a momentous time in the history of the Church. It was around the commencement of Lent that Pope Benedict announced that he would be resigning from the Office of Pope and as Bishop of Rome on 28 February and that duly happened.

That dramatic step gave rise to the implementation of the process which culminated in the election of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the new Pope. There were a number of firsts in this choice: the first Pope from South America where the Church has had a significant presence due to the early influence of the Spanish, and later strong migration from Europe; it was the first time that a member of the Jesuit order had been chosen for this position. Up to very recently, the Jesuits have not aspired to the positions of leadership such as becoming bishops, that that too has changed.

In yet another way, with the choice of the name of Francis and the emphasis on the needs of the poor, our new Pope has already given us a new focus which he has already followed in his own personal life, and which he clearly intends to pursue in his new role as well. The decision to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass in a prison context, and to wash the feet of some of the inmates, is but a sign of things to come.

In the approach that Pope Francis has already taken, he is very much in harmony with the thoughts expressed in both the First Reading and the Gospel this evening when we are celebrating this very important Mass which includes the blessing and consecration of the Holy Oils, and the renewal, on the part of the priests, of their commitment to continue their priestly service in the Archdiocese of Hobart.

The prophet Isaiah proudly proclaimed:
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring Good News to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken.”

The responsibility of bringing the Good News to the poor, and to bind up broken hearts, rests today with all of us, but in a special way with the “ministers of the Lord” who are seated here with me this evening.

The oils that are to be blessed, the oils of the catechumens and the oil of the sick, and the oil of Chrism which is to be consecrated, will all play an important part in the carrying out of the task of bringing the Good News and the binding up of hearts.

The first to hear the Good News will be those who are to be baptised. Maybe the majority, being very young will not hear the Good News so much in words, but they will very quickly come to appreciate the love that their parents have for them, and also as time goes on, that the wider Christian community shares with them as well. I wish to acknowledge those here tonight who will be baptised at the Easter Vigil next Saturday night, after a careful reflection on the Good News and a decision on their part and the part of the community to move forward to ask for baptism.

There may be some present here this evening, but the majority of those who will receive the anointing of the sick over the coming twelve months, are very likely already unable to take part any longer in the full life of the Church. But they continue to receive the Good News, in the form of the outreach in the parishes and the continuation of a very inspiring ministry to the elderly which is now an accepted element of parish life.

For those who are to be confirmed with the Oil of the Chrism, and there are some of them here tonight, the occasion when it arrives will be one in which you can give a personal response to the message of the Good News which has been gradually unfolding before you, through the words and example of your parents, the teaching you receive at school, the programmes in your parishes, which allow you to prepare well to receive the Sacraments of Initiation.

In the passage from Isaiah which Jesus also read in the Temple, there is also reference to “binding up hearts that are broken.” Broken hearts are the consequence of a damaged self –image, no matter how that has come about. In some instances it is self-inflicted, and in other cases, it comes as a result of what others do to us. The result is much the same in each instance.

Just as it is through the destructive power of words that our self-image is damaged, it is through the power of the Word of God that the image can be redirected and turned into a positive. At one stage in his teaching Jesus said:
“If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The healing of the self-image begins when we begin to live by God’s word to us, and become conscious, as the writer of the psalm has done, of the “wonder that is myself.”    It means that we refuse to live any longer by the negative word, the voice of our inner critic which is contradicting God’s word. Speaking strong words of affirmation to each other can go a long way to bind up hearts that are broken.

This is always a very appropriate occasion to express admiration, appreciation and thanks to the “ministers of the Lord” in this instance the priests, diocesan, religious and on loan, for your priestly ministry over the past year, and your readiness to begin again the task as preachers of the Word, celebrants of the Liturgy and leaders of the community.

These continue to be challenging times, in a way that we would never have anticipated or dreamed of some thirty years ago, but that is the world in which we are called to exercise our ministry today. Concepts such as risk management and work health and safety were not part of the vocabulary back in those days, although I am sure for the most part, we did express the values which they are seeking to protect and emphasise today.

A time of transition awaits us all, at some time over the coming months. I remain confident that there are many ways in which the Good News is being preached, and broken hearts are being bound up in the Archdiocese of Hobart. It all may need to move in a new direction, but there is a good foundation for that to happen in an effective manner. The text of the Gospel continues to be fulfilled today.