Homily of Bishop Kevin at the Mass of Chrism
“I am the One – Holy Oil and Mission”
Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran at the Mass of Chrism
Wednesday 5th April 2023, 7.30pm
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo
Language can be very interesting. It is fascinating to hear the differences in how people express themselves in English. If you ask for volunteers at a meeting, to take on some task or other, you might expect people to say: “OK, I’ll do it”, or “Not me, sorry”, or, of course, they might just look down and avoid eye-contact. Among the Filipino community, however, I have become accustomed to people saying: “I am the one” or “I will be the one”. To my ear, that sounds like a very clear acceptance of personal responsibility. It is not just someone; it is I who will do it”.
In our first reading this evening, the Prophet Isaiah says: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.” As we read on, it becomes clear that the anointing is about being sent. It is hardly just a coincidence that, when Jesus is handed the scroll to read in the synagogue, it is this same passage from Isaiah that he is given to read. As so often happens, the Word that God gives us, is the Word we need to hear just at this moment. In the case of Jesus, the words of Isaiah capture the heart of his mission. He identifies himself as the one in whom the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, when he says: “this text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen”.
- Who has been sent to bring Good News to the poor? “I am the one!”
- Who has been sent to proclaim liberty to captives? “I am the one!”
- Who has been sent to give new sight to the blind? “I am the one!”
- Who will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour? “I will be the one!”
In all of the Sacramental moments, we listen to the Word of God and then we respond with our commitment. The Word of God is constantly calling us to faith and to a deepening of our relationship with God and with one another. In a particular way this evening, as we listen to the Scripture readings, we are preparing to consecrate the holy oil which will be used in the Sacramental life of the Church, and each of these oils is a visible sign of being called and being sent.
The Oil of Catechumens is used when the Church calls people to definitively choose Christ and invokes the power of the Holy Spirit to send them forward on the journey towards Baptism. Its meaning is not so clear in the context of infant Baptism. The blessing of the Oil of Catechumens is a reminder to us that in every parish community we need to be attentive to our responsibility to invite people to come for Baptism and to accompany them in the power of the Spirit.
The Oil of Chrism is used in Baptism and in Confirmation. As we use it, the Church joins the Holy Spirit in saying, “she, or he, is the one” whom God has called to be a disciple, an active and committed member of the body of Christ. Every vocation in the Church flows from Baptism, and from the gifts of the Spirit which are renewed in Confirmation. The same Oil of Chrism is used in the ordination of Priests and Bishops.
It might seem strange to say that the Oil of Anointing of the Sick is also about vocation and mission. In our culture we tend to think of those who are sick or frail as people who are unable to do anything; people whose time for becoming has passed. Perhaps we forget that when Jesus healed the sick, he also restored them to the community. For those who receive the Sacrament of Anointing with faith, there is always healing of some kind, even if it is not physical. With that healing comes the call to continue courageously on the personal journey of faith, confident of being accompanied by the Holy Spirit and by the community of faith. For some this is experienced as a call to prayer; for others a call to a healing of relationships. For some it brings inner peace, or a desire to live every minute as fully as possible. At a time of serious illness, the mind is focussed, and people are perhaps well equipped to say to themselves, and to God, “I am the one!”.
We are, as St John reminds us in the second reading, loved by God, washed clean of sin, and “made into a line of kings and priests to serve God”. Serving God, of course, goes hand in hand with serving one another. In this evening’s liturgy, with its consecration of the holy oils, the Church is not just replenishing the stocks of oil for the coming year. She is also reminding us of the various ways in which each one of us has been called and how we are each entrusted with mission. We are all Baptised into one Body and anointed with the same Spirit as Jesus. But Baptism is also a deeply personal and unique vocation.
You might remember that the Apostle John describes himself as “the disciple Jesus loved”. He didn’t mean to suggest that Jesus didn’t love the others. He was just describing his own unique relationship with the Lord. In much the same way, without in any sense excluding or diminishing the vocation of others or their mission, each one of us can say, with Jesus, “the Spirit of the Lord has anointed me, for he has sent me”…. Thousands of us are called and entrusted with mission, but each of us can say: “I will be the one”.
In a few moments, the priests who have gathered here from all over the Diocese, and in a very real sense, from all over the world, will join with me in renewing the promises of ordination, which include the commitment to obedience and to celibacy for the sake of being single minded in their ministry. They are called to serve you, the people of God by celebrating the Eucharist and the Sacraments and by preaching the Word of God in truth and love.
I want to thank them on your behalf for their generous service. Some of them are quite elderly; some of them are far from home; some of them – like yourselves – face particular struggles. So I ask you to pray for them, and I know that many of you do. In particular, I entrust to your prayers, Monsignor Charlie Travers and Fr. Michael Glynn who, with one hundred and forty years of priesthood between them, died during the past year. May they rest in peace.