The following story by Bishop Peter Christensen appeared in the April 7 Idaho Catholic Register.
By Emily Woodham
The Church’s call to fulfill the mission of Jesus, especially through her priests, was the focus of Bishop Peter Christensen’s homily at this year’s Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Thursday, March 30.
The sacraments of the Church, through the ministry of the priests, are where Christ’s mission takes place in the most fundamental and visible ways, the Bishop said. “The priesthood of Jesus Christ has insured, for the past 2,000 years, that the mission of God’s love for His people continues.”
About 60 priests renewed their vows during the Chrism Mass before a congregation of about 500. Religious from several communities also attended, including Verbum Spei, Missionary Servants of the Word, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and Marymount Hermitage.
Traditionally, the annual Mass is celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, which is considered a feast day for priests as it commemorates the initiation of the priesthood and of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. However, a diocese may transfer the Chrism Mass to another date close to Holy Week. This allows priests time to return to their home parishes in time for the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter celebrations.
After priests renewed their vows, the Sacred Oils used for the sacraments and for church and altar dedications were presented.
During the liturgy, the Bishop blesses the Oil of Catechumens, the pre-baptismal anointing that signifies cleansing and strengthening; the Oil of the Sick, that brings healing and comfort; and the Oil of Chrism, the post-baptismal anointing used for those being Confirmed and ordained as deacons, priests or bishops. These oils can also be blessed by a priest when needed for catechumens who are baptized and for the Anointing of the Sick. The Sacred Chrism, however, is an oil that can be consecrated only by a Bishop. Chrism is used to anoint the newly baptized, to seal candidates for Confirmation, and to anoint the hands of priests and the heads of bishops at their ordinations. It is also used in rites of anointing pertaining to the dedication of churches and altars.
Following the Chrism Mass, parish representatives deliver the oils to their churches. The oils are presented to the parishes at the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.
For the first time, oils were also given to Father Tom Keller to take to the new Pope St. John Paul II diocesan campground near Cascade.
The Gospel reading for the Chrism Mass was taken from Luke 4 where Jesus announces His mission in the synagogue at Nazareth, quoting from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad 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 to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus lived out His proclamation, Bishop Peter said in his homily, through His teaching and powerful acts of liberation and healing. Jesus brought glad tidings to those seeking restoration, righteousness and truth. He brought liberty to those held captive by destructive forces greater than themselves. He gave healing and recovery of sight to those who had been blinded and kept from the truth of God’s love for them. He also let the oppressed go free by bringing new meaning and freedom for the journey toward the pursuit of everlasting life, as He conquered sin and death.
“This faith-filled prayer, worship and mission of Christ continues to this very day because Jesus extends His works to be carried out by His disciples and those He ordains to do the same for all time,” Bishop Peter said.
The Chrism Mass, the Bishop said, is an acknowledgement of the role of our priests as chosen to serve the people of God.
“Their fundamental responsibility is to prayer, worship and to offer sacrifices for the people of God,” he said. This is reflected in the fifth promise the priests make in their renewal of vows, “to celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accord with the Church’s tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people.”
The priests make a twofold commitment in their promises: a commitment to be faithful to God and a commitment to serve His Body, the Church, the Bishop said.
To emphasize the sacrificial service of a priest, Bishop Peter quoted from a letter on Holy Thursday of 2005 by Pope St. John Paul II:
“Christ’s self-giving, which has its origins in the Trinitarian life of the God who is Love, reaches its culmination in the sacrifice of the Cross, sacramentally anticipated in the Last Supper (the First Eucharist). It is impossible to repeat the words of consecration without feeling oneself caught up in the spiritual movement. In a certain sense, when he says the words, ‘Take and eat,’ the priest must learn to apply them also to himself, and to speak them with truth and generosity. If he is able to offer himself as a gift, placing himself at the disposal of the community and at the service of anyone in need, his life takes on its true meaning.”
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