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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: April 14, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Monday, April 14, 2014.
A little less than a month ago we had our convocation on Evangelii Gaudium, the recent apostolic exhortation in which Pope Francis calls for a missionary transformation of the Church.
A transformation which begins with our own personal encounter with Jesus' mercy and forgiveness, an encounter which then produces in us an irrepressible passion to share his gift of God's mercy and forgiveness with others, with special concern for the weakest and most broken among us. This missionary transformation in us leads to 1.) a church that is permanently in a state of mission, and 2.) church structures that are mission oriented. For this reason, it is no coincidence that these are precisely the themes woven throughout our readings for this Chrism Mass.
In our Gospel, Jesus adopts the famous passage from Isaiah in our first reading and uses it to serve as a mission statement for himself and for us, his Church, the body of Christ living and active in the world today: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me (anointed: think chrism, hence this Chrism Mass) to bring Glad Tidings (the Joy of the Gospel, the title and focus of Evangelii Gaudium) 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 to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" (sharing the gift of God's mercy and forgiveness with others, with a special concern for the weakest and most broken among us).
It is for this reason that this Mass focuses both on the Work of God and on the Work of Believers
In this Mass of preparing oils for the anointing to which Jesus refers — "anointing to proclaim Glad Tidings to the poor" — we recall that the sacraments in which these oils will be used are all moments of personal encounter with Jesus 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 Mass focuses both on the work of God and on the work of believers: 1.) The work of God through Jesus' death and resurrection which sets us free from the power of sin and death, into which we are initiated in the sacrament of baptism, and 2.) the work of believers, for which we are empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation.
Since this chrism is also used for the ordination of priests, we who were anointed for sacred ministry with chrism on the day of our ordination will also take the opportunity today to renew publicly our commitment to priestly ministry. And to top it all off, giving us an additional reason for Gospel joy, Jeff Hebert — who has been a seminarian for our diocese for going on two years now, and who is a member of this Cathedral parish — will be formally admitted as a candidate for the priesthood in this Mass, leading (God willing) to his ordination to the priesthood in about four more years.
So today, as we bless the oils to be used throughout the coming year, let us recall that all of the sacraments of the Church — and not just those which use these oils — all the sacraments are intended to be moments of personal encounter with the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, including every time we gather around this altar to celebrate the Eucharist. These privileged encounters with Jesus which are mediated through the sacraments are the "mystery" to which the word "sacrament" refers literally in Latin! But these sacramental encounters are not merely for our own comfort and benefit, but rather for the purpose of then sending us forth in mission.
And so from this Mass we too 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."