To Proclaim Glad Tidings to the Poor and Heal the Brokenhearted

Homily of Bishop Shawn McKnight

Chrism Mass | April 11, 2019 | Cathedral of St. Joseph

Today we celebrate in a special way the one priesthood of Jesus Christ and our renewal in the Holy Spirit to fulfill Christ’s mission through the blessing of the sacred oils.

This celebration, coming as it does before our celebration next week of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, not only serves as a prologue to the Sacred Triduum; it also foreshadows, interprets and gives context to the entire Paschal event running throughout the entire Easter Season. This Mass of the Holy Chrism and the renewal of priestly promises recapitulates the death, resurrection, ascension, gift of the Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the Church all at once.

In Jesus’ first homily given in his home town of Nazareth, we heard him say: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to bring glad tidings to the poor,” and in the words of the Prophet Isaiah from which he quoted, “to heal the brokenhearted.”

The mission of Jesus Christ thus entails both teaching and healing; words and deeds that manifest the new reality of the Kingdom of God. All of us who have been anointed with the Spirit of the Lord by our baptism and confirmation, and those of us who received a special consecration in the Spirit through the sacrament of the Holy Orders, share in this very same mission of Jesus to teach and to heal.

Our supernatural anointings with the Holy Spirit make it possible for us to teach the truth of God’s love for the world seen in the death and resurrection of his beloved Son; and we are able to manifest healing through our works of charity and mercy.

Whenever we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless; whenever we defend the weak and vulnerable, grant forgiveness to the penitent, provide medicine and care to the sick, comfort to the grief-stricken, and hope to those in time of despair, we bring glad tidings to the poor and announce the Kingdom of God.

With the blessing of the three sacred oils this evening, we are reminded of our mission given by Christ to teach and to heal.

With the blessing of the oil of Catechumens, we are asking the Holy Spirit to assist those who are converting to the faith by their learning of the scriptures and the Church’s Sacred Tradition.

The journey of conversion into the mystery of Christ can be difficult, as the catechumens wrestle and struggle not only with the teachings of Jesus, but also in learning how to live them out with perfect holiness. It is a good reminder to us priests, too, that our primary duty as priests is to teach the faith. There can be no celebration of the sacraments without first proclaiming the Word.

With the blessing of the oil of the sick, we ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen and heal those who shall be anointed in order to mend their bodies, refresh their spirits, restore their broken relationship with God, and to heal our fractured humanity. Their spiritual healing is the primary aim, which includes the forgiveness of sins.

The oil of the sick thus represents all that we do as priests and as the People of God to manifest the kingdom of God in our works of charity and mercy.

When we provide a place for those suffering from addictions to gather for support and healing, we are proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Whenever we tend to those who grieve and mourn over the death of a loved one, and offer the Church’s funeral rites, not for a cost but because it is our mission to do so, we are evangelizing people about the reality of Christ’s death. In short, our acts of charity and mercy are concrete expressions of our hope in the resurrection. In times of sadness, the oil of gladness lifts up our spirits.

And with the Sacred Chrism, we are consecrated to share in the prophetic, priestly and royal dimensions of our Messiah and Lord.

At our baptism and at the celebration of Confirmation, we are signed with the sacred Chrism and are sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit, a little Pentecost occurring in our individual lives.

We are commissioned to continue in our world Jesus’ own proclamation “to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

This Sacred Chrism consecrates us for this sacred duty, and as ministerial priests, our very hands are anointed with chrism signifying the spiritual powers we have received in ordination to build up rather than to tear down; to encourage, inspire, motivate and facilitate the laity’s participation in the mission of the Church.

Our ministerial priesthood makes no sense without the laity, whom we are called to serve. For diocesan priests, and those religious priests serving with us in parishes, our special charism is pastoral charity.

Our spirituality is a liturgical spirituality, but one that is influenced by the daily interactions we have with the faithful, especially in family, marriage and youth or young adult ministry.

We are charged with being bearers of hope in a world often darkened by confusion, discouragement or even despair. We who have been configured to Christ and his Paschal Mystery by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, should be familiar with sacrifice as a means of holiness.

The hope we bear to people burdened by sin and weighed down by the demands of life, especially hectic family life, is the hope of the Resurrection and our future incorporation into the mystery of the eternal heavenly banquet. All that we suffer here on earth for the sake of the Gospel bears life and light in a world darkened by sin and death. We are a people of hope.

We need each other, the clergy and the laity, to fulfill the mission Christ has given to his Church by the outpouring of his Holy Spirit.

By supporting one another and having mutual respect for our different roles and responsibilities in the Body of Christ, our communion with God and one another is strengthened. We have been consecrated in the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection, and we are equally called to a life of holiness.

Let us not minimize the important and unique role of the spiritual father of a parish, who has been called by Christ to lead his people into all truth and holiness.

But neither should we consider the laity’s role as merely sharers in the hierarchy’s mission. It is the special vocation and distinctive task of the laity to order all worldly, earthly and temporal goods to the Kingdom of God.

This is why the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium called for the laity to make “their needs and desires known” to the clergy with freedom and confidence.

The laity likewise have the right and even the duty to express their opinion on matters pertaining to the good of the Church. They are also called to obey their pastors, following the example of Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father.

The clergy, on their part, must respect the dignity of the laity in the church, even using their prudent advice and confidently assigning offices to them in the service of the Church. The more familiar the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep, between the pastor and his people, the stronger and better is the Church for its mission for the life of the world.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must work together to tackle the problems our Church is facing in the world, in our country, and in our diocese. We need to build a stronger culture of hope and mutual respect so that we may deal more effectively with the tragedy of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the declining number of active priests, the pressures on families, the challenges our young adults face, and the moral decay of our society.

It was Christ’s intention at the Last Supper that we may all be one. I pray our celebrations of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum next week may foster healing in our parishes and communities and bring about a greater communion in our church. With the oil of gladness, we are better together!

What a great life and mission we have as priests; and what a blessing and privilege we all enjoy in the life of grace received in baptism, to share in the life and mission of the Church. Let us give thanks to the Lord!

And may the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Patroness, intercede for us. Amen.