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Bishop to priests: ‘You are loved’

On March 17, Bishop Peter celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. During this Mass, our priests renew their solemn vows to the Bishop and to the People of God. In many urban dioceses, the Chrism Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday, but it is not possible to do that in geographically large rural dioceses like the Diocese of Boise because some priests would not be able to return in time to their parishes for Holy Thursday night liturgies. Thus, while this Mass took place on March 17, Holy Week, especially Holy Thursday, is an appropriate time to be reminded of the sacred call of priesthood, both the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of believers. This video, taken from the Chrism Mass in Boise, was produced by Sophia Chumich.

During the same Mass, the sacred oils that will be used in the parishes of the Diocese for Baptisms, Confirmations and Anointing of the Sick are consecrated by the Bishop.

About 55 priests attended the Mass. Bishop Peter said he believes that is the highest attendance of priests throughout the Diocese in the seven years he has presided at a Chrism Mass.

Bishop Peter also paid tribute to priests celebrating hallmark anniversaries: Father John Legerski, 40 years; Father Antony Chinnabathini, 25 years; and Father Calvin Blankinship, 25 years.

Below is the homily the Bishop shared with the priests and others in attendance:

Welcome to this Chrism Mass, this time when we bless the oils - the tools of our trade as priests – and we make a renewal of our priestly promises. We say “I am” to the promises we have made and remake at this liturgy today. The third promise is worthy of our reflection in a special way today. It reads:

Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithful the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?

Isn’t that what Jesus does? He moved through this life with a zeal for souls, to bring them home to salvation for His Father in Heaven. His zeal is apparent as He makes His mission statement when He begins his public ministry, proclaiming it by reading the passage from the Prophet Isaiah, which prophesized of Jesus’ coming centuries earlier.

When handed the scroll of Isaiah in His own synagogue, Jesus knew right where to turn.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God; To comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.

… You yourselves shall be called “Priests of the LORD,” “Ministers of our God” you shall be called. … For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, an everlasting covenant I will make with them. Their offspring shall be renowned among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; All who see them shall acknowledge them: “They are offspring the LORD has blessed.” (Isa. 61:1-3, 6, 8-9)

Harry White and Liz Ramey bring forward the Sacred Chrism to be consecrated by Bishop Peter to anoint the newly baptized, seal candidates for Confirmation and anoint the hands of priests at their ordination. (Photo courtesy of Mark Bolland)

Jesus brings new order to this world He created, a world that had collapsed due to the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. They had fallen to seduction to sin by the great seducer, Satan.

Jesus now has come to restore order using His priesthood, a priesthood that has been passed on to those He has chosen to follow in the great work of making all things new in him. You are His chosen priests!

Let’s look at his Mission Statement as He proclaimed it in His home synagogue:

It begins by saying that His Mission is an anointed one, anointed by God the Father. Jesus is anointed as the Christ, the Savior sent to redeem the world. Anointed, as we heard, to bring glad tidings to the poor.

An announcement is being made of a new order coming:

Jesus is the Prophet, bringing glad tidings to the poor, announcing the plan of good news as it is now being revealed to all peoples.

Jesus has been sent among us to proclaim liberty to captives.

Jesus is the giver of a new sort of law. He comes as a Judge, but one who judges with mercy and forgiveness.

He gives recovery of sight to the blind. Jesus is a powerful doctor of sorts, able to reverse blindness, giving sight to allow people to see things they have never seen before. Jesus makes all things new by His healing power.

He comes to us to let the oppressed go free. Jesus is the great warrior who alone can engage in a battle against the evil one. He moves forward, as does a general at war, having the ability to change the course of history, tipping the scales of oppression to new freedom for the people who all upon him in their need.

Jesus proclaims a year acceptable to the Lord.

Now He is revealed as King, able to do what only a King, a Lord, is able to announce with assurance: This is the acceptable time, and all of this is fulfilled in your hearing. All of this Jesus will do because He is true priest, prophet and king.

My brother priests, we have been appointed by Jesus the High Priest to carry on in the mission He has handed on to us at this time in the history of our world. He gifts us with a share in His own Spirit, His own Holy Spirit giving us the ability to do as He has done.

We are to be a prophet, announcing the Kingdom of God present, a time of favor coming to those who are poor in spirit, to those who know they need the glad tidings of Christ, the anointed Son of God who is sent to earth for their salvation.

We are to judge rightly the things of this earth, freeing those enslaved and held captive by the imprisonment of their own sins and held in bondage by a lie chosen and lived. We are to liberate with mercy and forgiveness those who seek the freedom Christ has shown, a freedom that He has proven to be able to deliver.

We are doctors of souls. We are practitioners who give clarity of sight and new strength for others to see the way of Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, thus allowing those we are called to serve to see the world aright -- our patiently teaching others that the truth matters!

We are to be warriors of justice. We need to be courageous, going against the tide of false-hoods present in our own culture today by not giving into the pressures that surround us and not changing the handed-down teachings of our Church by a kiss of lies that only can lead, once again, to an ultimate betrayal.

As our King protects His people, know that Jesus has entrusted you and me to do the same: to watch over and care for the flock we have been given to guard.

We are His priests, His prophets, His representatives – representatives of the Great King. We are called to protect.

Together, as His beloved priests, we are to announce a time of favor to all who gather to hear us. This is the time of salvation, the time that Our Lord continues to announce.

The Preface for the Eucharist that we will hear today concludes with these words:

As they (your priests) give up their lives for you and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters, they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ Himself and offer you a constant witness of faith and love.

It is asked of us, and it has been made possible for us, to give up our lives for the salvation of our brothers and sisters. How do we do this and how do we get the strength to carry on?

It is simply this – know and believe, as He has already told you so many times before: you are loved. You are His beloved, His chosen one. He has called you to Himself as His priest. Upon you His favor rests, as you experienced on the day you were ordained.

My brothers, today hear the words Jesus speaks to your heart. Let yourselves be loved. Let yourself be loved by your Lord. Hear it often, accept it often. Doing so will allow us to move forward in your ministry with zeal for souls.

God bless you and thank you for the service you offer in His Name and by His strength!

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