Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily during the Chrism Mass April 15 in Little Rock.
One of the first things we try to do when putting together a parish council constitution is try to come up with a mission statement. A lot of companies in the business world do this as well. The idea is to give us a clear idea of our values, our goals and the approach we will take to achieve those goals. There is always a danger that in our busyness we will get distracted by lesser things and forget our more important objectives.
In the Gospel you just heard, Jesus takes the mission statement of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading and makes it his own. Why has Jesus come? What has the Spirit anointed Jesus to do? He has come 1) to bring glad tidings to the poor, 2) to proclaim liberty to captives, 3) recovery of sight to the blind, 4) to let the oppressed go free and 5) to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
At this Chrism Mass we remember that this is what the Spirit has especially anointed us priests to do by virtue of our ordination.
• How are we priests to bring glad tidings to the poor? Pope Francis speaks a lot about our obligation to deliver well prepared homilies that give people hope. A preferential concern for the poor among us and a warm welcome to all. Charitable projects to provide material and spiritual help to the needy. Removing barriers that deprive people of easy access to us.
• How are we priests to proclaim liberty to captives and let the oppressed go free? Prison ministry for sure. Also working to free those who are enslaved to addictions of any sort. Last month we had continuing education on the topic of pornography. And of course, the oppressive circumstances that have forced so many to come to us as refugees and our obligation to advocate for their rights and provide them a warm welcome.
• How are we priests to bring sight to the blind? We live in a nation that is stumbling in many kinds of darkness: alternate truths that are really lies, immorality of every sort, abortion.
We proclaim a Gospel of life and advocate for the protection of life from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between. The light is stronger than the darkness and we have a truth to proclaim that our society desperately needs to hear.
• Let us therefore make this coming year a year truly acceptable to the Lord, a year in which we — who are to be an alter Christus, another Christ — truly and courageously make Jesus’ mission statement our own. And that applies to all of us, not just those of us who are priests.
In this Mass I will consecrate the chrism which is used in the ordination of priests as well as for the sacrament of confirmation. I will bless the oil of catechumens and the oil for the anointing of the sick. These oils are blessed and consecrated at this one Mass as a sign of our unity as one Church and will be taken from here to all the parishes in our state and used throughout the coming year for the administration of the sacraments in which we all share.
The sacraments in which these oils will be used are all moments of personal encounter with the Lord not only for our own personal benefit and consolation, but also for the purpose of mission, of being sent forth: empowered in the sacrament of confirmation, healed through the anointing of the sick and ordained to serve in holy orders.
It is for this reason that this Chrism Mass focuses both on 1) the work of God — to set us free from the power of sin and death, through Jesus’ own death and resurrection, into which we are initiated in the sacrament of Baptism, and 2) the consequent work of believers — empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation to bring that salvation to others, and all the more so for us priests who have been consecrated to the Lord through ordination, hence the renewal of our promises today.
And then from this Mass, having made Jesus’ mission statement our own, we will be sent forth to “bring glad tidings to the poor … 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.”
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