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Mass of Chrism, 2018

St. Joseph’s Basilica
26 March 2018

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

Over the past few months I have been hosting a number of listening sessions with different groups of people. The aim is to hear from them their reflections, insights and concerns with respect to their life of faith. A great deal has been shared and a number of themes have emerged. Tonight, I highlight one in particular because it recurs frequently. I've heard it often not only in the context of these listening sessions, but also nearly every time I speak with someone about the living out of the Gospel in their lives. The issue is this: the great challenge we encounter today in giving witness to Jesus Christ. Whether it is in the workplace, on a university campus or even sometimes in the home, disciples of our Lord are finding themselves misunderstood, criticized, mocked, or even without a job, if they differ with the prevailing mindset by standing up for Christ and the teaching of his Church. Very often do we find that what we know and proclaim to be good news is received by our contemporaries as anything but. The message is rejected, together with its messenger. It is, indeed, very difficult today to be a faithful witness to Jesus Christ.

Let's keep this in mind as we listen again to the Book of Revelation: "[Grace to you and peace] from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." (Rev. 1:5) Giving witness stands at the heart of the earthly ministry of our Lord. As he fulfilled the ancient prophecy of Isaiah, and went forth in the power of the Spirit to proclaim glad tidings, he gave witness to the love of his heavenly Father. This brought him before the hostility of the religious and political powers of his day. To his call from the Father he was always faithful, he was the "faithful witness". His fidelity arose from his absolute trust at all times in the all-powerful love of the Father. He stayed faithful to the end, offering his supreme and perfect act of witness from the Cross.

Like our Lord, we, too, find ourselves standing before the authorities of our time. Today, though, it is not the military might of Rome or the jealous rage of Temple leaders that confront us. Rather, we find ourselves up against powerful forces coursing through governments, universities, media, regulatory bodies and the like that seek with increasing insistence and malice to muzzle the Gospel by silencing the followers of Jesus Christ. But, we shall not be silenced. The one to whom we give witness is the Son of God who loves us, as St. John says, and who has freed us from our sins by his blood. In our encounter with Jesus Christ we have been transformed! In him we have met the Father, whose love liberates us and offers salvation to the world! How can we not proclaim the Gospel? How can we not give witness?

When we meet resistance, as we inevitably shall, where do we find the strength to persevere? How do we remain faithful to our calling? For the answer, we can look this evening to the oils that will be blessed and consecrated. Each in its own way points to our participation in the life and mission of Jesus Christ. The oil of catechumens gives to those preparing for Baptism Christ's power to resist evil and temptation. The oil of the sick brings to those anointed by it the healing touch of Christ. Sacred chrism grants to the baptized, confirmed and ordained their own particular configuration to Christ. In other words, by pondering these oils and their use by the Church we are reminded of the many ways in which the Holy Spirit is at work in believers so to unite us to Jesus Christ that his very life becomes the animating principle of our own. From this vital union flow all the gifts needed for the accomplishment of our calling, including the gift of fidelity. By granting us a share in his faithfulness, Jesus enables us to be the faithful witnesses that he calls us to be, the faithful witnesses our world needs us to be.

To Jesus, then, our hearts must turn constantly, as daily we seek to live out our vocation as his disciples. Apart from him, we can do nothing. For this reason, he has made himself accessible to us in the sacraments of the Church, especially in the Eucharist. There we draw life and strength for witness through communion with his very Body and Blood.

From our awareness of the need for the Eucharist arises our appreciation for the men by whose ministry it is rendered available to us, our priests. At every Chrism Mass, the Church gives thanks to Almighty God for the gift of the priesthood and for those who exercise this ministry. So, as Bishop of this local Church, I want to offer thanks for the priests who serve us in this portion of the Lord's vineyard. I know I speak not only in my own name but also on behalf of all who are gathered here when I say to you, Fathers, a heartfelt "thank you" for giving your lives to Christ out of love for him and his people. You serve us well, and we are all very grateful.

I now invite you, Fathers, to stand and renew your priestly commitment. 

✠ Richard W. Smith
    Archbishop of Edmonton

26 March 2018