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Hear Bishop Peter’s homily
Bishop Peter Muhich
April 3, 2023
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.”
At the beginning of his public ministry the Lord Jesus went to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and was given the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. He opened it to the sixty-first chapter which is our first reading for this Mass, and he read a passage. This is the part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah that speaks of the suffering servant through whose suffering God will save many. His audience knew the passage well. Jesus reads it aloud and then plainly says, “today, the scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” They can’t believe what they’re hearing. They are too familiar with him. They lack the ability, at least at this point, to absorb this saving truth: that God at this moment, in the person of Jesus Christ, is fulfilling his promises. He has sent his son to the world. Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one, the savior of the world.
Every year before Easter, at cathedrals around the world, the church celebrates this Chrism Mass. Ancient and symbolically rich, the chrism Mass is one of the most significant liturgical events outside of Christmas and Easter. Although many may not be aware of it, participating in the Chrism Mass is a great way to come to a deeper appreciation of the sacramental life of the church because of the renewal of priestly promises and the blessing of the holy oils being special focus of this Mass.
During the Chrism Mass, the bishop, joined by his priests, blesses the oils to be used in the celebration of the sacraments in the year ahead. Historically, this blessing took place at Holy Thursday Mass since Holy Thursday commemorates Christ’s institution, not only of the Eucharist, but the priesthood.
Today, the Chrism Mass is celebrated separately but the connection to the priesthood remains at its heart. Since Christ, the high priest, chose to continue his saving work of the ministry of bishops and priests, making himself present in the sacraments. Since priests, united with their bishop, are ministers of these mysteries their presence together at the Chrism Mass is a powerful display of their unity and the ministerial priesthood which serve the needs of the baptized. Priests today, at this Mass, are asked by their bishop to renew their priestly promises, pledging to be faithful in their service to the church and union with him.
And of course, three oils are blessed: the Oil of Catechumens, also known as the oil of exorcism which is used in baptism. The Oil of the Sick to be used in sacrament of the anointing of the sick, for those who have encountered life threatening and serious illness, and those preparing to make their passage to the other side of life. And the Oil of Chrism used in baptism, confirmation, and holy orders. The Oil of Chrism is particularly important since it is used in the sacraments that anoint with the holy spirit.
It is a unique mixture of olive oil and balsam and aromatic resin finding us that as Christians we are called to give off the fragrance of Jesus Christ — the sweet aroma of eternal life.
Jesus is the anointed one. In his life, ministry, preaching, and especially in his suffering, death, and resurrection, he breaks sins hold on us and fills us with God’s life. In baptism and confirmation, he pours a spirit upon us making us a new creation, and also making a sharers and his priesthood, his prophetic ministry, and his kingship. In holy orders he configures men chosen from among the baptized to be ministerial with priests, stewards of his sacraments.
My brother priests: the anointing we have received is meant to be unleashing of the Holy Spirit. As we seek to fan the flame of the spirit during the Eucharistic Revival, I know that the Lord wants to work powerfully through us as his priests. As you renew your priestly promises, let your “yes” come from deep within, welling up from the recesses of your heart allowing God to do great things for our people through you.
The same Lord Jesus who spoke so clearly and powerfully in the synagogue in Nazareth 2000 years ago, is present here in this assembly this morning, and throughout the diocese in the life of the baptized and confirmed and we priests who serve them.
“The spirit of the Lord is upon us because he has anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim liberty to captives and to let the oppressed go free.”
Let us open our hearts to him, especially as his priests, that he might do his work in us, in new and powerful ways. That our people might be set free from the shackles of sin and be filled with God’s life so that everyone in western South Dakota knows that the Lord Jesus, who died for us, is risen from the dead and present in his church.
Watch the 2023 Chrism Mass
(Due to technical difficulties, the audio on the video is low. Using headphones to hear the Mass will help.)
Excerpts from the English translation of Lectionary for Mass ©1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation, (ICEL); Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010. Excerpts from the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism © 2019. Music Reprinted and Streamed with Permission under ONE LICENSE, License #A-704305. All rights reserved. Communion Antiphon © 2018, Jared Ostermann, reproduced with permission.