Conformed to Jesus - Chrism Mass

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Conformed to Jesus 
Chrism Mass

I have looked forward to this Mass with you. It is a joy to have the priests of the Archdiocese gathered for this Chrism Mass and I thank all those who have made considerable effort to be here tonight. I also welcome the deacons and our five seminarians. It is good for us to be together.
This Mass each year is a Mass where we focus on what Pope St John Paul II has called the “gift and mystery” of the priesthood.
The primary purpose of this Mass is, as its name suggests, the occasion on which the sacred oils used in our sacramental ministry are blessed. However, it has also, since the Second Vatican Council, become a Mass in which priests gather with their bishop for what is sometimes been called the “Great Concelebration”. It is also the Mass into which Pope Paul VI has inserted the Renewal of Priestly Promises.
This Mass has become an occasion of particular significance for priests. We come together during Holy Week. We gather as a presbyterate expressing our fraternal unity. We renew the desire of our hearts to serve God and the People of God as priests.
Gathering as priests, deacons and seminarians we are conscious of the challenges that we face at this time. This is a time in which shadows hover over the priesthood. We cannot but be aware of the hurt and anger that is felt by many people over revelations of various forms of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. This has been a particularly hard time as the Royal Commission explores many cases and examines how the Church, particularly through the office of the Bishop, has responded. We know we have failed those who have been abused. We know that some among us have done immeasurable harm to the lives of people who trusted in them. 
I affirm my commitment to assist anyone who has suffered from abuse by the clergy in the Archdiocese of Hobart. I also affirm my commitment to work to ensuring a safer environment for children in the care of all the agencies of the Archdiocese.
Tonight I also wish to express my deep gratitude for priests who, despite very difficult circumstances, have “borne the heat of the day”. These have been difficult times for the Church. Priests have felt the burden of lack of numbers of priests in the Archdiocese. Priests have carried a deep concern for declining numbers of people, particularly young families and young people, attending Mass and participating actively in parish life. Yet you have continued to offer dedicated and generous service to the people, for this I salute you. 
I also unite myself with priests who have a burning desire to enable the Church to become more missionary, in particular response to the call of Pope Francis. The road ahead will be challenging as we seek to find ways to engage with those who have drifted from the faith, but I also have a great hope in my heart. We know that we have to find the way in which we can reach out to those who have wandered from the flock. We know we need to draw back the lost sheep. This is a difficult task but we know it is of vital importance for the future of the Church. With God’s wisdom and grace we will find a way and we will, I believe, rejoice to see a new harvest of souls.  
Tonight as we are conscious of the forthcoming commemoration of the Last Supper in which the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and, with his command to “do this in memory of me”, the institution of the priesthood. We are aware that we, as priests, have been called into a profound union with Christ the Priest. We know that we are privileged to repeat what he said and did at the Last Supper. Bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ through our words and our actions. The saving death and resurrection of Christ is proclaimed and we are the instruments by which believers are brought to share in this mystery.
Tonight we can savour for a brief moment who we are as priests; the honour that has been given to us; the trust that has been placed in us; and the power of salvation we are able to dispense.
In this Mass we are invited to renew our priestly promises. We publicly declare our personal desire and intention to live out our vocation to its fullness.
Following an introductory question asking us if we are resolved to renew our priestly promises, there are four questions that are asked of us in this ceremony.
Tonight I would like to briefly dwell upon the first of the questions. The question states:
Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?
This question invites us to recall what was in our hearts on the day of our ordination. Tonight we can cast our minds back. We can picture our ordination day. The Cathedral or church, the bishop, the assembled priests and of course the gathering of the people.
We can recall prostrating ourselves in submission. We can recall the laying on of hands. We can remember being anointed with the Chrism oil. We remember being clothed in the chasuble. The memories flood back. We think perhaps of our youthfulness and great expectation of what was to lie ahead. We were aware of the enormity of what was happening to us.
The question invites us to renew what was the foundation to our ordination - our faith in and love for Jesus Christ. Tonight we declare that we do what we do as priests because of Him. We desire to conform ourselves more and more to Him. We know that we did not choose Him, He chose us. He has chosen us to be priests and act in His name. He wants us to bear much fruit. He wants and indeed needs us to be the instruments of his saving work in the lives of people.
Tonight we can say afresh: “Jesus, as a priest, I offer myself to you. I give over myself to your will. Shape me and fashion me to be the priest you want me to be. Dwell afresh in my heart this night. Take over my mind, my soul, my entire being”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Tuesday, 31 March 2015