Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Chrism Mass 2022

Chrism Mass 2022
April 11, 2022
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen


The story is told of a visitor to the chancery office of a large diocese in the 1940’s. The man claimed to be Jesus Christ himself and he would not leave the premises. What’s more, he insisted on visiting all the offices to inspect the work being done. The receptionist quickly alerted her colleagues, until finally, news of Jesus’ alleged visit to the chancery office reached the bishop. “What should we do?” an anxious aide wanted to know. “Look busy!” said the bishop.

If the Lord suddenly returned, wouldn’t we want him to find us busy … to find us engaged in his mission of preaching the Gospel, giving comfort to the sorrowing, and freedom to those held captive by sin and injustice? Or if suddenly we found ourselves giving an account of our lives before God’s Throne, wouldn’t we want to tell the Lord that we spent our lives bearing witness to his truth and love by our words and deeds? Of course, we would!

I think we’d also agree that being busy is better than having time on our hands. But all too often, we find ourselves burdened by our busyness, burdened by the daily routine and the tasks we are expected to complete. Saturday before last, I took part in a Knights of Columbus board meeting in New York. Some in senior leadership are young, with young families and lots of little children. These are happy couples in good marriages but I saw firsthand the demands they face. For example, just getting their kids settled in the hotel and fed was a gargantuan task. I know for sure that you, my brother priests, are burdened with endless tasks, whether it’s the things I might ask of you, or the things you need to do in order to serve your people well and wisely … to say nothing of deacons and their wives, who juggle the demands of home, work, and ministry, and so it goes! Much as we love the Lord and the Church, much as we love our vocations, we reach a point where we push back against infinite demands on our finite energy.

The Chrism Mass “Pushes Back”

If I may say so, this Chrism Mass also pushes back, but in a different way. As we listen to Jesus, we hear him proclaim what his mission would be – a mission of redeeming, self-giving love: healing, consolation, and liberation. As we reflect on the Gospels, we see how Jesus went about fulfilling that mission: preaching the Good News, healing the sick, forgiving sins, raising the dead . . . all the while dealing with his followers, his enemies, the curious, and even demoniacs. Listening to Jesus and reflecting on his works, we realize that discipleship and mission immerse us in an ocean of self-giving, lived out in tasks large and small – not all of them to our liking. This realization may seem like a shortcut to burnout.

This is where and how the Chrism Mass liturgy pushes back on all of us – not only on us priests, but on all of us as the People of God. The blessing of the Holy Oils reminds us that when they are used to baptize us, or confirm us, or ordain us as priests, the Holy Spirit consecrates us, makes us sharers, in the life and mission of Jesus Christ. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, we are united with one another in Christ Jesus, “…who (as Scripture says) loves us, and has freed us from our sins by his Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” This does not merely mean that we are members of a kingdom ruled by Christ, but rather, that the whole People of God shares a royal priesthood – a priesthood they exercise in various ways by partaking of Christ’s own self-giving love. By prayer and immersion into the Church’s sacramental life, we tap into a hidden source of strength, namely, the Christ who lives in us and ardently desires to speak and act through us. The blessing of the Holy Oils teaches us that we dare not go it alone, lest busyness, burnout, and even serious illness overtake us. Rather, through the anointing of the Spirit, we are incorporated into Christ and into his Body, the Church. The Spirit enables, strengthens, and encourages us to offer ourselves to others, together with Christ, indeed, “through him, with him, and in him”. Through daily prayer, we need to re-discover the source of our joy and strength. As St. Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

How This Plays Out

This fundamental fact of our faith plays out in various ways, whether you are married, ordained, in consecrated life, or discerning a vocation. I want to take this moment to thank you, parishioners and members of the laity, for embracing the vocation of marriage and for sharing the faith with your children, for being missionary disciples … bearing witness to Christ in your daily life, for your service to the poor, for the ministries you lead and sustain in your parishes, and for the often unseen sacrifices of love you make each day. In the same breath, I want to recognize and thank those of you in consecrated life for your witness to Christ by your way of life and by your effective ministries.

To all of you, the Scriptures, the Blessing of Oils, and the Eucharist itself say: “Be rooted and grounded in love!” (Eph. 3:17).

How does this play out in our lives as bishops and priests? … a crucial question on this night when we renew the promises of our ordination! Amid the busyness of our lives, as we feel stretched beyond our strength, we realize how important it is that, in daily prayer, we allow Christ to take us by the hand and to lead us into the inner unity and love of the Trinity … and thus into the inner dynamism of unity and love at the heart of the Church. This is where we continually re-discover the inexhaustible source of self-giving love, unleashed into the world by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The focus of our lives must be this endlessly new thing at the heart of priesthood, this fact, this action, not of the past but of the present, as we make our own the action of Another accomplished long ago, and look forward to the fruit it will later bear in ourselves and others. Every day, we must ask that the anointing we received at ordination be renewed in us, so that we may be transformed, not ground down, by routine, exhaustion, loneliness, and illness – and anything else that may beset us. Ordination requires of us a daily, prayerful resolve to let go of our self-enclosed ego so as to enter into the depths of Trinitarian truth and love, the very mystery we preach, celebrate, and bear witness to by works of mercy and compassion. I thank you, dear brother priests, for your selfless daily labors for God’s People, most especially in these very challenging times. I pray that, during his Holy Mass, my communion with you and yours with me, will be repaired, will deepen, and will blossom, so as to grow as a united witness to the great things the Lord has done for us and for his Holy People.

And if the Lord should return, may he find us all, not only busy, but happily engaged! May God bless us and keep us always in his love!

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.