Fr. Roger J. Landry
Chapel of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN
Holy Thursday Chrism Mass
March 24, 2016
Is 61:1-3.6.8-9, Ps 89, Rev 1:5-8, Lk 4:16-21
Today’s homily, given at the request of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, was not recorded. The following points were attempted:
- The Chrism Mass focuses on a triple divine anointing, key for us to grasp in this Jubilee of Mercy.
- The first is an anointing of Jesus himself.
- In Isaiah, we see the prophecy about the Messiah who would come, literally the “anointed one.” It describes that upon this Suffering Servant would be the “spirit of the Lord” “because he has anointed me” and anointed him with a purpose: “to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord, … to comfort all those who mourn, … to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning.”
- That’s exactly what we see fulfilled in the Gospel, when in his hometown synagogue, Jesus takes the scroll, unrolls it, finds this passage, reads it, rolls up the scroll, hands it back to the attendant, sits down, and with the eyes of all fixed upon him gives a one-sentence homily: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, “I am the anointed one.” “I am the Messiah.” “I am the one sent to bring good news, proclaim liberty, set the oppressed free, make the blind see, and proclaim a Jubilee!”
- It’s of Jesus that the Responsorial Psalm likewise speaks as God the Father says of the son of David according to the flesh: “I have found David, my servant, with my holy oil I have anointed him; that my hand may always be with him: and that my arm may make him strong. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him; and through my name shall his horn be exalted. He shall say of me, ‘You are my father, my God, the Rock, my Savior!”
- But Jesus’ anointing doesn’t stop there. His anointing overflows. The great news he brings, the most profound liberation, what he opens our eyes to see and what he wants us to celebrate is the fact of our share in his anointing. To be a Christian means to be “anointed,” because Christ is the Greek term for Messiah or Anointed One. Jesus wants us all to be dripping with his own anointing so that we might have communion with him and share and complete the mission for which he was anointed.
- The first place Christ’s anointing overflows is into the priesthood.
- In the first reading, after talking about the anointing of the Messiah, God tells us through Isaiah, “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God you shall be called.”
- The Book of Revelation talks about how Christ, having liberated us by his Blood, has made us into a “kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”
- In the Old Testament, people were anointed for three reasons, as prophets, as kings and as priests, so that they might receive God’s help. God’s plan is for us to be anointed in this triple way, so that we might announce his word, offer ourselves and what he has given us in sacrifice, and govern, guide and shepherd ourselves and those he has entrusted to us.
- What is true of everyone in the common priesthood of the faithful is especially true of the ministerial priesthood. Priests share in Christ’s anointing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they are able to extend his merciful mission, filled with the gifts of wisdom, counsel, knowledge, understanding, reverence, courage and fear of the Lord.
- That’s why, in a special way, this Chrism Mass takes place on Holy Thursday, the day on which Jesus established the ministerial priesthood, a day special to priests. It’s on this day, as Msgr. Joseph and I will do later, that we renew the promises we made on the day of our ordination and commit ourselves to be more closely united with the Lord Jesus and conformed to him, to be faithful stewards of God’s mysteries and teaching, moved only by zeal for souls and the people of God pray for the bishop and priests that we might more effectively be icons of Christ and agents of his mercy.
- And that divine plan to anoint also is tied to the sacred oils through which God wishes to bless us.
- These are the means by which God blesses us all.
- The Oil of Catechumens we all received, for those of us baptized as children, on the day of our baptism, as we were blessed over our heart after a prayer of exorcism and the priest says, “We anoint you with oil in the name of Christ our Savior; may he strengthen you with his power, who lives and reigns forever and ever.” Today we bless it after the closing prayer and ask God to strengthen those catechumens anointed with it to receive God’s wisdom and strength, to understand more deeply his Gospel, to live out their divine filiation and undertake generously the work of Christian life.” All baptisms that take place anywhere in the world happen with this prayer.
- The Oil of the Sick is used when we’re in danger of death due to serious illness or old age. Christ had sent out his disciples to heal the sick and we see in the Letter of St. James that the priests were praying over the sick and anointing them with the prayer of faith and many of them were being healed. One day, using oil blessed in the Chrism Mass, the priest will say, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy, help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from your sins, save you and raise you up.” This oil is blessed at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer specifically to tie it to the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, who is the source of all healing.
- And the Sacred Chrism we consecrate today is used in those sacraments that impart a sacramental seal or character to us. It’s used in Baptism on our forehead, as an external sign that through baptism we share in Christ’s anointing as priest, prophet and king. It’s used in Confirmation, to seal us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s used in Holy Orders, to drench a priest’s hands, or in episcopal ordination to poured over the new bishop’s head. It’s used in the consecration of an altar. And from that anointing of the minister, as Pope Francis likes to say, that oil is supposed to drip over the people of God, so that they may share in that holy unction. To symbolize the “oil of gladness” it is filled with aromatic balsam and the Bishop blows on it, to show the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, just like Christ breathed the Holy Spirit on the apostles on Easter Sunday and the word “Spirit” in Hebrew is “ruah,” the same word for “breath.” We ask God the Father to permeate this chrism with the strength of the Holy Spirit so that those marked with it may indeed be endowed with the dignity of king, priest and prophet, and become a Chrism of salvation making them sharers one day of heavenly glory.
- And so we come here for the Mass of Christ grateful for the incredible richness of this day. The same Christ who entered his hometown synagogue comes here. He has been anointed to carry out his Mission. He has anointed his bishops and priests and sent them out to continue that work, and they, with these holy oils, have anointed us and will anoint us in the future, so that throughout our Christian life we may not just be called Christians, but really live as “little anointed ones,” Christiani, and help bring others to united themselves to the Supreme Consecrated One, whom we will receive today in Holy Communion.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 IS 61:1-3A, 6A, 8B-9
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
and 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 in place of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.
You yourselves shall be named priests of the LORD,
ministers of our God shall you be called.
I will give them their recompense faithfully,
a lasting covenant I will make with them.
Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
All who see them shall acknowledge them
as a race the LORD has blessed.
Responsorial Psalm PS 89:21-22, 25 AND 27
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him.
That my hand may always be with him;
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him;
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior!’“
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Reading 2 RV 1:5-8
[Grace to you and peace] from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who 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,
to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.
Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will lament him.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Verse Before The Gospel IS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)
for he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
Gospel LK 4:16-21
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
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.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”