Chrism Mass 2024

25 March 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Chrism Mass 2024


[Isaiah 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9; Psalm 89; Revelation 1:5-8; Luke 4:16-21]

In October of 2021, Pope Francis launched the entire Church on a synodal process of discerning how the Holy Spirit is prompting new engagement of the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ. Like many of you, I have engaged in numerous listening sessions. In them I’ve noticed one question that participants frequently pose to one another, and it is this: “What keeps you up at night?” Behind it lies the intuition that commonly shared points of concern can indicate where the Holy Spirit might be urging us to announce in new ways the unchanging truth and wondrous beauty of the Gospel.

That has merit, certainly, but when it comes to engaging deeply with the mission of Jesus Christ, I have learned there is a far more important question. During one listening session, when we all were speaking about what kept us awake at night, I was ready with my answer. When it came my turn to speak, however, I was asked instead, “What makes you want to get up in the morning?” What, in other words, energizes you, gives you joy, and impels you into the day? Caught off guard, I gave an immediate response, but I knew it did not capture fully what I wanted to say. It turns out I needed a young child to help me find the words. During one of my parish visits, a little four-year old girl came running up to me and said, “Hi, priest!”, then ran away again. And I thought later, “There’s my answer. I really do want to get up every morning because I am a priest of Jesus Christ.”

I am sharing this with you tonight because the Mass of Chrism reminds us that we can each give the same answer. In the Book of Revelation, Saint John teaches that Jesus has fashioned all his people to be “priests for his God and Father”, in fulfillment of the promise we hear spoken through Isaiah. The more we allow this mystery to seize us, the more we shall, indeed, want to get up and get going, eager to embrace our share in the mission of Christ. Tonight’s Gospel passage, situated as it is in Holy Week, helps us to grasp this.

Jesus spells out his mission as he speaks in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth, by announcing that he himself is the one foretold by Isaiah to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour. When in a few days we enter the Sacred Triduum, the Church will proclaim anew that Jesus fulfilled this mission precisely through the exercise of priesthood. When he, the one true and high priest, offered himself to the Father as victim on the altar of the Cross, his Blood cleansed humanity of the sin that blinds, captivates, and oppresses, and ushered all of history into the endless “year of favour”, the era of salvation. This means that the grace of salvation is granted only through a living union with the self-giving of Jesus Christ on the Cross, only, that is, by a sharing in his own priesthood. This is why Jesus, by the grace flowing from the Cross and into the sacraments, gives to each of his followers a particular share in his one eternal priesthood without which salvation is not possible, and by this gift makes us “priests for his God and Father”.

Here we touch the heart of the mystery that makes us want to get up in the morning. By his act of priesthood on the Cross, Jesus has now himself become the entire content of the good news we are called to announce. Precisely by exercising our own share in his priesthood, we make him known. There is nothing more important, nothing more urgent, and nothing more exciting than that. The baptized faithful exercise their share in Christ’s priesthood through a life of worship, witness, and service. Bishop and priest are granted an essentially different participation, whereby they stand entirely at the service of the faithful by acting in persona Christi capitis. Together, we all point to the one True Priest, whose self-gift has brought salvation and who thus remains forever the world’s only sure hope. If that mission does not get us up and moving, I don’t know what else can.

From the Cross, Jesus demonstrated that the essence of priesthood is self-sacrifice. Tonight, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to each of you – the lay faithful, the consecrated women and men, and our deacons – for the sacrifice you make daily to embrace your share in the evangelical mission of the Church. I know it is not always easy. Especially in the midst of a culture increasingly allergic to Gospel truth, I recognize that Christian witness is not always welcome. Yet, please know that the world needs your gift of self, offered in union with Christ, and that the Church is deeply grateful.

Allow me to express a particular word of thanks to our brothers ordained to the ministerial priesthood. This annual occasion afforded you by the Chrism Mass to renew your priestly commitment focuses the attention of all God’s people upon your own personal sacrifice in their service. Borrowing from the little girl I met in the parish, I want to say to each of you, together with everyone here, “Thank you, priest!”  The Archdiocese is richly blessed by your priestly ministry and servant leadership.

Now, Fathers, with confidence in Jesus Christ who calls and sustains you, and in the presence of the people who love and support you, I invite you to renew now your priestly commitment.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Joseph Basilica

March 25th, 2024