Renew us in holiness & spiritBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice Springfield & Cape Girardeau MO
Homily: Chrism Mass 2017
April 11 & 12, 2017, St. Agnes Cathedral/St. Mary Cathedral
A photo gallery of diocesan Chrism Masses can be found here.
Today, I have the joy of being the main celebrant of my first Chrism Mass as a bishop and as the Seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. I greet all of the priests who have gathered—I greet you as a brother, a father, and a friend—and I offer congratulations as today we recall the day of our ordination.
The readings from Isaiah highlight the anointing by the Spirit of the Lord—an anointing received by “priest of the Lord” and the “ministers of our God.” That same reading outlines how the priest is to use that anointing—to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to comfort all who mourn.
In these words, we priests recommit today ourselves to what we already know—the anointing of the priest at ordination is for the good of the People of God to those we are called to minister. Our anointing, the laying on of hands, the invoking of the Holy Spirit and the anointing of our hands with the Sacred Chrism is a mandate to go out to the poor, the prisoner, the sick, the sorrowing—in fact, for all the joys and sorrow that make up life this side of heaven.
Our Lord is never outdone in generosity.
Our anointing is more than some ancient symbol with fragrant oil. That anointing is our commission so that with every homily we offer, those who listen share in our anointing. We who have been anointed in turn anoint the people of God through our ministry. When our people ask for our prayers, when we visit the hospitals or nursing homes, when we bring Holy Communion to the sick, or anoint someone in preparation for death, in all these activities, we share our anointing with the people.
Through our ministry of preparing people to receive the sacraments or in teaching the faith, we again, share our anointing with them. When we give counsel or simply give of our time to someone in order to just to be a listening presence, we encourage them and offer hope, and in doing so, we share our anointing with them.
When at times we feel overwhelmed at the scope of our pastoral duties and get drawn into the daily issues of schools and building maintenance and contracts and paving parking lots, and all the other things they failed to mention in the seminary—what do we do? When, like Jesus, we feel surrounded by people pressing in on us from every side—then let us escape in prayer, let us put out into the deep and receive the consolation of our High Priest so that we may return renewed in Spirit, ready once again, to go out to the outskirts and offer our anointing to those in need.
If we fail to renew ourselves in prayer, with those daily, intimate encounters with Christ, our High Priest, our generous, priestly hearts can grow cold and hard-hearted. We can grow dissatisfied in our ministry and retreat into self-isolation and bitterness.
I hope each of us knows and believes that the more we give of ourselves to the priesthood, the more the Lord gives back to each of us what we need to do His work. Our Lord is never outdone in generosity. It is only when we hold back that the Lord cannot work in us we defeat ourselves and become our own enemy.
To the people gathered here with us today I say, “Thank you.” From the first moment I arrived in the diocese, I could sense the great love you have for your priests, telling me of the priest who married you or baptized your children, saying it with such pride and admiration. In the words of Pope Francis, “Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.” And to my dear brothers, I say, “Thank you,” for all you do for the People of God.
May God the Father renew us in the Spirit of holiness; may He renew His spirit in our hearts that we, in turn, may share our anointing with our people. Amen.