Text of Bishop William Murphy's Holy Thursday Chrism Mass Homily 2012

GRACE TO YOU AND PEACE FROM JESUS CHRIST WHO IS THE FAITHFUL WITNESS, THE FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD AND THE RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH.

John’s haunting vision of the Kingdom of God is one where we belong, where we all are fully participants for, as John tells us, HE HAS MADE US INTO A KINGDOM, PRIESTS FOR HIS GOD AND FATHER.  The gift of faith and life in baptism has consecrated us all.  Through the sacraments of initiation you and I who were “no people” have become the true People of God.  At our baptism, and again later at confirmation, we were anointed with the chrism of salvation.  The water that flowed over us has dried but it has made a lasting effect.  The oil that gleamed on our foreheads may not be still visible but it left the chrismed sign of the cross etched in our hearts, the eternal sign of our unity: HAIL O CROSS OUR ONLY HOPE!  The oil we bless today will be distributed to every parish throughout this Church.  All three oils, but especially Holy Chrism, fulfill the role of instruments to bring the Spirit of God into our hearts and make us the Body of Christ.  This great gift is ours to live but even more ours to proclaim and witness for all humankind.  There is no limit to our love and commitment to all of humanity.  We are God’s firstborn and ours is the call to witness his life and be ourselves instruments of salvation.

How we do that entails personal commitment and communal witness. We depend on the spirit of God’s love dwelling in this community of communion.  We take heart and gain strength through all the means, the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, the Lord has given to His Church.  This Chrism Mass unfolds the gifts of the Lord that will bestow a strength that makes us witnesses to his love and missionaries of his message to the world.

This evening in all our parishes at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, my brother priests and I will celebrate with you the Mass by which we re-live what Jesus did on the night before he died.  That night he revealed to his closest intimates the Father’s plan of salvation.  That night he instituted the Eucharist as he instructed his first sent, the apostles, and empowered them to do this for you and to do this in memory of Him.  He washed their feet and told them that theirs was the task to be Him to all who would believe and to bring him to all who seek God’s truth and to re-image him to all the world as priests of Jesus Christ the one High Priest.

In a few moments we priests who have been ordained to re-present Christ, for his Church and for the world, will renew the promises that have shaped our lives and guided our service.  By this we pledge to imitate Christ who made his own the words of the Prophet Isaiah:  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.  We priests fulfill that pastoral mandate in many ways and in every circumstance all the days of our life.  We were called to serve as Jesus served.  We are called to be like Him so that we might in turn be HIS instruments, like the chrism, like the sacraments, like the Eucharist, making him real in your lives because you are the center of Christ’s life, his concern, his love.

One of the promises we will make includes these words: To discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching.  A few weeks ago I published a column in TLIC, entitled, Who speaks for the Church?  In a profound way, we all do because, if we are the Church each of us must live and act as faithful members of the Church.  But in the current national concern regarding the incursion on religious freedom and freedom of conscience by the government, the bishops, despite other voices claiming to be ‘Catholic’, remain the ones who speak authoritively for the Church.  As I said then, we do this “conscious that we do so as the successors of the apostles with the awesome obligation to be faithful to the mandate of Christ to bring his message to the ends of the world.”

While this task belongs in the first place to bishops, it is a task and a responsibility that all of us as priests must take upon ourselves in union with our bishop. Last year at this Mass I cited Pope Benedict’s remarks encouraging us to make our preaching more effective.  This morning in Rome he said, We preach not private theories and opinions but the faith if the Church whose servants we are.  Today I want to state that we must be equally attentive to the content of that preaching.  In every circumstance and for every portion of God’s People we are called to teach as Jesus did, to teach what Jesus taught, and to teach what the Church teaches through the Magisterium of Christ’s Church.

Calling for the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict tells us: “the love of Christ fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize.  Today, as in the past, he sends us…to proclaim his Gospel to all peoples of the earth…Today there is a need for a stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to re-discover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.” 

This noble task crowns our lives as pastors. Faithfully doing this, you and I will be one with our Holy Father.  And you will be one with me in a shared charism and a shared office: the office of teacher of the truth of Jesus Christ.  To do that we must not only know what the Church teaches, we must understand it, assimilate it, and affirm it.  Ours is an internal assent and religious commitment to be faithful.  There is always the temptation to be go along with the latest fad, give way to the insistent voices of right and left, or indulge the nostalgic opinions of some who would want to turn back to years past whether they be the fifties or the seventies.  No theologian, no matter how popular he or she may be, trumps the magisterium.  And every member of the People of God has the right to receive from us, not what we might personally like or what we think others might like to hear, but what the Church truly teaches and charges us to pass on.

Who speaks for the Church?  We do, my brothers.  We do so humbly and without pretense or false claims.  We do so gently as shepherds of our people.  We do so firmly and clearly because to do less would be to lessen the voice of Christ and the teaching that has been entrusted to our care and to our proclamation.  And we do so for the sake of the unity of the Church, the unity for which Christ prayed on the night before he died, “Father may they be one as we are one”.

At the beginning of his preaching in Galilee, Luke tells us that the people “praised Him”.  But in today’s Gospel in which he proclaims his pastoral mission to his neighbors he is met by rejection by his own.  Yet he never faltered.  He never grew discouraged.  And he always taught the truth about God and God’s love for all humankind.

In you my brothers, I see those same traits and I thank you.  I salute you.  I assure you of my respect, my appreciation and my affection for your faithfulness!  For all of you born here, Long Island is your Nazareth where you bring those you have known all your lives the word of God, the message of Christ and the teaching of the Church.  You do so in concert with priests like me who came here from other cities and nations because we were sent and discovered this as our home.  We love this Nazareth too and with you we love the people we serve in the same shared spirit of great happiness and thanksgiving. 

May we always do this as one!  One with Jesus, one with His Church, one with the Holy Father; one with me, your limited but nonetheless very grateful brother; one with all the people and for all the people who long to see the Lord, long to know the Lord and are guided by our teaching and our proclamation of Him: You yourselves shall be named priests of God, ministers of our God you shall be called.