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Jesus’ mission statement is same for priests today

Published: April 13, 2022   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

One of the first things we try to do when putting together a parish council constitution is trying 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. Of course, there is always the danger that a group will put together a mission statement and then forget about it, not actually follow it.

In the Gospel you just heard, Jesus takes the mission statement of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading and makes it his own. Jesus 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. And, of course, there are 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? There is much darkness in today’s world: alternate truths that are really lies, people who are really mixed up. 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 truly and courageously make Jesus’ mission statement our own.

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 moments of personal encounter with the Lord not only for our own personal benefit but also for the purpose of the mission: sent forth to do God’s work. 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. 

Brother priests, I want you to know how grateful I am for you. I should express this more often. I am forever bragging about you. Unlike some other dioceses, there are no real divisions among us. It is clear that you like each other and support each other and that you support me in my efforts — for which I am very grateful. Not every bishop can say that. 

In over 13 years, I have never had a priest refuse an assignment. Quite the contrary. We are all in this together. And so then from this Mass, having made Jesus’ mission statement our own, I will then send you forth to continue 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.”

 Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily April 11 during the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock. 

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