Chrism Mass 2000
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
(Is. 61:1-3ab, 6a, 8b-9) Three weeks ago yesterday Pope John Paul II concluded his personal Jubilee pilgrimage to the land that is holy, holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Holy Father’s visit took him first to Jordan.
From what is today the land of Jordan came the prophet Isaiah, who inscribed the words Jesus was later to apply to himself at the beginning of his public ministry. This same land of Jordan is holy for many reasons, as the Holy Father reminded us when he visited the site of the baptism of Jesus and prayed to the Triune God, manifested so powerfully at the baptism of the Son of the living God.
Tonight are blessed the oils that will be used in the conferring of the sacraments that Jesus gave the Church. The dynamic of this evening will come to fuller flower on Saturday, at the Easter Vigil, when the Chrism will be used to anoint the catechumens in baptism and both catechumens and candidates when they are confirmed. Will the Catechumens present please stand so that we can acknowledge and encourage them? The Candidates for full communion, will you please stand?
(Lk. 4:16-21) What Isaiah said in prophecy Jesus applied to himself in his words to those assembled in the synagogue at Nazareth. The Spirit had indeed come upon him at the Jordan, the Holy Spirit who led him into the desert for 40 days of prayer and fasting. The same Holy Spirit was with him in the great temptations, at his first miracle at Cana of Galilee, and now as he spoke to the gathering at Nazareth. This evening we pray that the Holy Spirit may bless and strengthen all of us gathered in the Cathedral with a sense of His power at work in our lives, in our ministry in the name of Jesus.
At Nazareth Jesus taught those who listened about his mission: "to bring glad tidings to the poor, … 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." These words, we know, describe the ancient Jewish year of Jubilee, and they are word for our year of the Great Jubilee. When Pope John Paul visited the camp at Bethlehem for the Palestinian refugees, the words applied with special force. The refugees have suffered much, losing their homes, outcasts in their own region, beggars before the world. When we pray for the oppressed and marginalized, we must remember them. They and all of good will in the region are looking for a peace that will be just and enduring. When, in the psalms, we pray for "the peace of Jerusalem," we should remember the whole region and all those, Palestinian and Israeli, Jew and Christian and Muslim, who yearn for a lasting peace for themselves and for their children.
When we pray for the marginalized, we know that there are concerns closer to home that call for both prayers and action. I take this moment to thank all the parishes and all the individuals who have undertaken the "Beyond the Boundaries" program, initiated under Bishop John Ricard and carried forward well into his illness by Bishop Frank Murphy. I invite other parishes to join. The issue is more than regional. It is statewide in its ramifications, and Bishop Bennett and those who guide it will be making aspects of it available across the Archdiocese.
In Western Maryland, the economic slump had been touching our parishioners for years. This effort will in time help Church as Church have a more prominent role, often working with other church groups, in seeking the development the communities need to recover.
In Baltimore and elsewhere, the spiritual and social cancer of racism must be addressed. As Church, we must actively remind ourselves and our neighbors of the inherent dignity of every human being, no matter what the color of the skin, no matter what neighborhood they live in. We see all of them as God’s children, made in the image and likeness of their Creator. Other community issues, such as drug abuse, crime, and unemployment, also have a moral aspect to which our preaching and teaching must speak.
But more important than all this will be our building of new relationships. These will be relationships between people. God’s people in the City, in the suburbs, in the town and country settings across the Archdiocese. May the Holy Spirit help us to see how we belong to one another in the Body of Christ, with talents, skills and other gifts which can help build up God’s kingdom among us.
Throughout his pilgrimage Pope John Paul was teaching, those close at hand and, often through television, those far away. On the Mount of the Beatitudes he prayed with tens of thousands of young people from around the world. They reflected the spirit and openness to God’s ways I have seen in the young people of our Archdiocese. The day before yesterday, our young people witnessed to the importance of the Lord in their lives. They walked and prayed in the rain. They gave witness to the power of God working in them to combat drugs, to remain chaste, to accept disability in faith.
The young people were there with such enthusiasm because they have been taught in parishes and in schools. This evening there are many here who serve as teachers, making present the teaching of Jesus, in the RCIA, as Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, as Pastoral Associates, as Parish Life Directors – please stand so that we can recognize you and thank you.
At Nazareth, Pope John Paul prayed at the place where the "Word was made flesh," the remarkable, unrepeatable event 2000 years ago our Jubilee commemorates. At Bethlehem, he reminded us that "every day is Christmas." He prayed alone in the cave where, as the earliest Christian memories and writings attest, the infant received the worship of shepherds and the Magi from the East, the poor and rich, the powerless and those considered wise above all common measure.
In Jerusalem, the Holy City par excellence the Holy Father celebrated the Eucharist in the Upper Room and remained awhile in quiet prayer. There he signed the Holy Thursday letter he sent this year to priests, a letter we were able to distribute instantly by Internet to our priests here. In the Cenacle, Pope John Paul recalled, Jesus gave us his great gift of self in the Eucharist on the night before his death. He gave us also his gift of a share in his one priesthood, unique and deriving totally from him. Pope John Paul in his letter recalled also the royal priesthood of Jesus and the share given to all the baptized, distinct from the ministerial priesthood. In the latter share our deacons, ordained for service to the Eucharistic table of the Lord, service to the poor and to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. I invite our deacons to stand. Let us acknowledge their service among us.
And to our priests and bishops, I offer, echoing Pope John Paul, a particular word of deepest appreciation. I am most grateful for all you do so generously to make present, where you serve, Jesus the great High Priest and loving servant of all. Please stand and receive the thanks of those who esteem and love you.
In the same upper room the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. It was the confirmation day of the infant Church. The 120 present had already been "born again of water and the Holy Spirit." On the first Christian Pentecost that same Spirit commissioned and enabled them to be witnesses to others of the life of the Trinity already poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit at their individual baptisms. We pray this evening for all those who will be touched and moved by the Holy Spirit at the Easter Vigil when they are confirmed and anointed with the Chrism we bless this evening.
In Jerusalem Pope John Paul did many things. At Yad Vashem he instructed us again on the horrors of the Holocaust, the Shoah, and the need to remember and to take steps that such outrages should never again occur, as we recall that anti-Semitism is a sin against God and humanity. At Yad Vashem he saw as well the memorials to the Righteous Gentiles who risked and sometimes gave their lives to save Jewish people destined for extermination by the Nazis. May we learn from their heroic example.
In the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre the Holy Father knelt before the small altar at Calvary and prayed in the empty tomb of the Risen Jesus. Tonight we remember those places as we now prepare to enter into the Eucharist and to a deep and real communion with Jesus who suffered, died and rose for us. His first witness, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, has now visited and made more real for us how we are called to salvation, and to Easter joy!