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Chrism Mass 2017

Published: April 10, 2017

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Monday, April 10, 2017.


Bishop Taylor

What does it mean to say that someone is anointed? During this Chrism Mass we will consecrate the sacred chrism and bless the oil of catechumens and the oil for the anointing of the sick — physical anointings that are fundamental for the sacramental life of the Church.

During this Mass our priests will renew the solemn promises they made to the Lord just before their hands were anointed with sacred chrism the day of their ordination.

And if we look at today's Scriptures we find both Isaiah and Jesus saying that they have received a spiritual rather than physical anointing: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

By means of these anointings we become another "Christ." That is why we are called "Christians" — "Christ" is Greek for "anointed one" and we've been anointed.

Clearly anointing can mean a lot of things. Jews used it in the Old Testament to mark physically those chosen by God to serve the nation as a priest, prophet or king, but even then they spoke also of a spiritual anointing, such as in the phrase "a priest according to the order of Melchizadek" as distinct from priests belonging physically to the tribe of Levi.

The early Church understood Jesus to be that sort of priest since he descended from David of the tribe of Judah. And his anointing was, of necessity, spiritual rather than physical, indicated by the dove representing the Holy Spirit hovering over Jesus' head (and thus anointing him spiritually) as he was baptized in the Jordan and thus sent forth empowered to undertake, in earnest, the ministry that the Father had entrusted to him.

This parallels the spiritual anointing we receive when we are anointed physically with chrism in the sacrament of confirmation — and even more so at ordination — and thus sent forth to undertake, in earnest, the mission that the Lord has chosen for each of us.

By means of these anointings we become another "Christ." That is why we are called "Christians" — "Christ" is Greek for "anointed one" and we've been anointed.

Well what does that mean concretely for each of us? It's pretty simple: if we are to be "another Christ" — truly a Christian — that means that Christ's mission becomes our mission. And where do we find a clear description of what that mission is to be?

In today's Gospel where Jesus takes Isaiah's mission statement and makes it his own, and thus invites us to make it our own as well. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

If that's the case, then we need to ask ourselves: Who are the poor today and what is the Good News that the Lord is sending us to bring them?

Pope Francis has spoken a great deal about God's mercy. To what degree do we view life through the lens of a merciful God rather than through the lens of fear and exclusion. Who are the captives today, people who languish in all kinds of unfreedom? People who feel trapped in bad situations, people enslaved to vices of every sort.

Who are the blind today? There is much darkness in today's world. How can we bring the light of Christ's truth to dispel the darkness of error and free us from those fears that have produced such negative results in today's world.

What can we do to let the oppressed go free? Remedy the legal dilemmas in which people find themselves. Eliminate the economic exploitation of those who have to work but have no way to defend their rights in the workplace. If we do that, we will share in Jesus' mission to bring the Good News to all who need the salvation that he has come to win for us. Which is everyone!

And this is the heart of all that we are doing liturgically in this Chrism Mass. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us because he has anointed us to bring good tidings to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."