Editor’s note: The following is the homily that Bishop Douglas J. Lucia delivered April 12 at the Chrism Mass.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me” (Is. 61:1).
Dear sisters and brothers, this day, as we gather around the diocesan bishop as one flock to celebrate one Eucharist and to bless the Holy Oils to be used by our bishops, priests and deacons in our diocesan Church—we manifest the full, active participation of God’s people and the empowerment received through anointing and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our gathering at this midday hour directs us to our oneness in Christ and the common mission of witness given to each one of us by our sacramental anointings.
Beginning with the Sacrament of Baptism and being further strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and for our brothers ordained to the ministerial priesthood in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we are smeared with oil to set us apart for mission! Another anointing received in weakened health, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, gives witness to the healing ministry of Christ through his Church and of his strengthening presence on the road of life.
No matter which anointings we have received, brothers and sisters, all testify to this one fact: “We are an Easter People!” Like those who came to the empty tomb on that first Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ body in preparation for proper burial—the opposite is true! We are descendants of those who were anointed, that is chosen by God in their encounter at the empty tomb; and sent forth to “go and tell” others about the One who “goes before you and will meet you on the way.”
In looking up the meaning of anointing, it refers to the designation of an “heir.” What better context can we have for the use of the oils being blessed and consecrated at this Mass? They are about succession and helping people to succeed! As the prophet Isaiah reminds us in our first reading: “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God you shall be called” (Is.61:6). In the light of the Second Vatican Council we believe: “As members of Christ, we are members of him who is priest, prophet and king. We are set apart as God’s royal people. We are summoned to speak as prophets do, making the word of the Lord living and active. And we are to act as priests, sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others and offering prayers for them.”
Indeed, sisters and brothers, the use of these Holy Oils throughout our diocese is an extension of the ministry of the bishop who has the vital responsibility to teach, to sanctify and to shepherd the portion of the people of God entrusted to him. In turn, the ministry of the bishop—with the presbyters and deacons ordained to assist him along with those commissioned as lay ministers—is an extension of the ministry of Christ. The heart of this ministry is the universal call to holiness forming us as the people of God … as an Easter people!
What St. Augustine meant in that Easter Sunday sermon when he taught his people what it means to be “Easter people,” was simply this: Their faith in Jesus Crucified and Risen must be lived by imitating Him in daily life by the way they spoke, thought and acted. Anything else was a betrayal of Jesus and their faith. It was true then, sisters and brothers, and is just as true today and will always be true. Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of Easter in this way: “God lives!”
Sisters and brothers, what, then, do these oils signify not only by their use, but for those anointed with them? How do they assist in making God alive among His People? As one spiritual writer states: “They are a holy, precious gift from God to the Church, signifying cleansing and strengthening, healing and comfort, and the life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit.” St. John Paul II in reflecting on our being an Easter People stated: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter People and hallelujah is our song.”
I believe those gathered here in this place recognize the need for our witness in the world today. As we now bless and consecrate these holy oils, let us ask God’s blessing upon each of us and for the courage to continue to minister in the name of Jesus as a true Easter people!
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me” (Is. 61:1).