Homily of Bishop Michael Smith at the Chrism Mass
1. Welcome to all who have come from the different parishes of the Diocese along with their priests to join in this act of prayer and blessing. I especially welcome the parents and family members of priests who have been able to join us this evening. The wider family of the faithful coming together during this week when we are invited, very directly, to reflect and ponder on the central mysteries of our faith. At the heart of it all is the Cross leading to the hope expressed in the Resurrection of Jesus.
2. There are two focal points to our celebration in this Chrism Mass. Shortly the priests present will be asked to renew in a very public way their commitment to priesthood. All present are then reminded of the command of Jesus in the Gospel to pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest. Vocations arise from the faith and prayer of a worshipping community. Thanks to all who do pray.
3. This will be followed by the Blessing of the Oils – the oil of Catechumens used in Baptism, the oil of the Sick used for anointing the ill and the Oil of Chrism used in Baptism and Confirmation as well as in the Ordination of priests and bishops.
4. I have chosen the Gospel you have just heard from the many words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. John’s Gospel gives us an extensive account of this last gathering with His chosen disciples. His words were very direct and not all that reassuring. He spoke freely of the sufferings they would meet as they fulfilled the mission He was entrusting to them. They would suffer all sorts of calumny because they carried His name. He invited them to have trust and confidence. His words are as relevant today as in any other age.
5. The Apostles must have often reflected on these words of Jesus during their ministry that took them to many places and countries. They would have drawn great strength and support from these words of Jesus that we especially find in John’s Gospel. Read and reflect on them over these days since they are spoken to all, but especially to bishops and priests.
6. Those words of Jesus ‘you too will be my witnesses are directed to all of us. In the coming months there are two occasions when we can exercise that demand of Jesus in our own lives. Especially so when balance and fairness, never mind truth, is so often absent in public comment on the Church in these times. Cheap and distorted headlines do not determine our faith. Faith is rooted in Christ, especially in a crucified Christ.
7. The Pope if coming to visit. Forty years ago St. John Paul decided that every three years the Church should hold a World Meeting of Families, focusing on the centrality of the family to life and society. It grew out of his concern from the many pressures and challenges family life was experiencing . These concerns if anything have grown greater. I hope you will be able to engage with this event, especially being present on the Saturday celebration in Croke Park and the final Mass on Sunday in the Phoenix Park. It is a moment to be a true witness to the integrity of family and life. Some may even be able to attend the three day congress that proceeds the weekend celebrations. All parishes are being asked to facilitate these arrangements.
8. The second call to give witness to the sacredness of all life. The teaching of the Church is very clear. Indeed the Vatican Council in its reflection on life and its sacredness was very succinct in his comment on the killing of the child in the womb. It describes it was an ‘unspeakable crime’. Supporting or facilitating such a development is not compatible with faith. It is a witness that is very necessary in this age.
9. These days remind us that faith is always challenged and the call to be a witness to faith is integral to the call that comes to us in our Baptism and Confirmation. In both of these Sacraments the oils that will be blessed shortly are placed on our heads in the sign of the Cross. It was through His death on the Cross that Christ opened the way to salvation. These days invite us to pray and to ponder.