St. Joseph Basilica, March 30, 2015
Last week saw the introduction in Alberta of the provincial budget. As we all know, its specifics are reflective of the precipitous and rapid fall of oil prices. This demonstrates yet again, and now in a particularly dramatic fashion, that our provincial economy is heavily resource dependent. Our lives hinge on a resource, whose fluctuations relative to price and uncertainties pertaining to delivery create for the lives of the people an economic foundation that is unstable.
My point here is not to offer commentary on the budget or our fiscal reality. Rather, I offer this as a metaphor for an appreciation of the message of both Sacred Scripture and this particular liturgy.
Our gathering tonight for the Mass of Chrism is a beautiful manifestation of the local Church. We come together as disciples of Jesus Christ, aware that, precisely because we are disciples, we have been entrusted with a mission. As we take up the call of the Lord, we do so in the knowledge that the Church herself is resource dependent. She lives from one primary source of energy, a resource, moreover, that never fluctuates in any sense, that is rock-solid in its stability. That resource is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our mission is clear: it is that of Jesus. As foretold by Isaiah, Jesus is the One sent by the Father to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and to announce the time of divine favour. In that well-known discourse in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus not only announces himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy but also makes clear the source, the energy, by which he will accomplish his mission: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." The Father anoints the humanity of Jesus with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and in the power of the Spirit Jesus goes forth to accomplish the mission of salvation.
The Church has come into being because the Father has granted to the followers of his Son a participation in that same anointing. This is the meaning of the first bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost. It is the meaning of every bestowal of the Spirit that is accomplished in the celebration of the Church's sacraments. We are granted a participation in the very anointing by which Jesus was himself anointed. We have bestowed upon us the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what makes us resource dependent. Only in the power of the Holy Spirit can we do that to which the Lord calls us. Yet unlike what happens in our province's economic situation, our recognition of resource dependence is not a cause of worry; it does not lead us to look for alternative sources of supply. No. Aware that we are reliant upon grace for all things leads to joy and thanksgiving. Nothing is more steadfast than the covenant love of our God. Nothing is more stable than His providence. Nothing other is necessary. All is gift, and all is given to those who acknowledge their dependence and call upon the grace of Christ.
Here we see the significance of the oils upon which we invoke tonight the outpouring of God's grace. This oil comes from the olive tree, and is quite unlike its distant cousin residing deep within Alberta soil. The substance produced in this province plays a pivotal role in our market economy. The oil we bring forth tonight participates in the divine economy of salvation.
By blessing and consecration, God makes the oils effective signs of the grace by which we are anointed in sacramental celebration. By her reception of these oils as God's gifts to us and by her prayer over them, the Church gives expression both to her dependence upon God in all things and to her sure conviction that God will never leave wanting those who turn to him in faith.
At the same time, the sacred oils highlight the Church's resource dependence in another manner. God's anointing makes each of us the resources by which the Church's mission is fulfilled. The grace of God endows us with particular gifts, and sends us forth to place them at the service of God's people, especially those found at the margins of society. Our government is seeking to reign in and reduce its expenditures, precisely because its resource base lacks stability. We, however, spend ourselves without measure for the sake of the Gospel, and are able to do so because our source of supply is the unchanging and inexhaustible love of God.
In so many ways, this is precisely what happens here in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Out of love of the Lord and his Church, many people are giving themselves in generous service. I think first of parents, who strive to make their home a domestic Church and therein form their children as disciples of Jesus. I think, too, of the countless lay people placing themselves at the service of the Gospel in our Archdiocesan offices, parishes, schools, colleges, and hospitals and in the many agencies dedicated to charity, justice and the witness to life. In the workplace, many are striving to be faithful witnesses to the truth of Christ, often in environments hostile to the Gospel. Our deacons are involved in a variety of ministries in the Archdiocese, and serve with great fidelity. My heart fills with gratitude as I consider the presence and ministry of religious women and men. In this Year of Consecrated Life, we gratefully acknowledge our great debt to them for the establishment of education and healthcare in this province, and for the prophetic witness they continue to offer in our day.
Of course, every Chrism Mass focuses the attention of the Church in a particular way on that precious resource we call the ministerial priesthood. By the will and grace of Jesus Christ, these are the men who, in union with their Bishop, teach the Word of God, sanctify the people through the sacraments, and govern so as to fashion and maintain the unity of believers. The priests serving in this Archdiocese do so with great dedication, moved by their deep love for God's people. Once again, Fathers, I am pleased to express to you the thanks and love of the people of God in this Archdiocese, as well as my own personal admiration and esteem. I know well that the challenges we face are growing and increasingly complex and burdensome. At the same time, we all know that these cannot and do not outweigh the joy and consolation that Jesus gives us as we give ourselves to him.
We are resource dependent. We rely upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the collaboration of our brother and sister disciples. Confident in God's never-failing love, and assured of the support of the faithful, renew now your priestly commitment.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
March 30, 2015