Bp. Mark J. Seitz Chrism Mass 2016
March 21, 2016
We use blest oil a lot in the Church. Most of the time it seems like a pretty innocuous action. Often it’s even hard to see where the oil was placed. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes oil can become a weapon. I know of a bishop who always wants an open container of it for Confirmations. No cotton, please. Sometimes the oil placed upon the forehead seems to find its way down the bridge of the nose. I’m sure it plays havoc with makeup.
Of course bishops are not simply putting fear into the hearts of Confirmandi; sometimes it is the newly minted bishop that may have the most to fear. In the name of a fuller symbol that fragrant oil of Chrism is poured on the head of the newly ordained—and that psalm about the “oil running down the beard of Aaron” is literally experienced. Of course it’s not only running down the beard. It is running down the glasses, into the eyes, down the back, etc. Just try reading the Missal with that Chrism in your eyes!
But, of course, the holy oil used in any Sacrament: Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick or Holy Orders should have an impact. It is, as is the case with every Sacramental Sign, a visible sign of an invisible grace, an invisible power, transforming the lives of those who are anointed.
This is true of every Sacrament, but because of the special focus of this night, permit me to focus on what the oil of Chrism helps effect in Holy Orders, when it is used for the Ordination of priests and bishops. Oil effectively communicates what it symbolizes. It seeps into every nook and cranny, every pore. The sweet perfume of the Chrism also permeates. It fills the room with its fragrance. Thus is the effect of the Spirit upon those who are anointed. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.”
We have among us here tonight this great brotherhood of priests who serve the Diocese of El Paso. Considering the number of people they are called to serve they are few in number. But consider for a moment the incredible impact that they have upon our lives and upon the lives of the multitudes that they serve. They are weak human beings with the same struggles as everyone here, but they are men who have consecrated their lives to God’s service. Because of their call and their anointing they have set aside the opportunity to enjoy even certain natural goods, like marriage, for the sake of this radical dedication to building the Kingdom of God.
Who among us have not been touched by their ministry? Who has not been moved by the example of their generosity? Who has not found it more possible to accept the sacrifices you have been called to make as you witnessed theirs?
Our Holy Father has called us to get back to ideals of Gospel simplicity, of radical commitment to serve the neediest among us even at the cost of our own comfort. He has challenged all the baptized but in a particular way he has called on bishops and priests to return to the fundamentals of their call in imitation of Christ and his disciples.
Many have commented to me how admirably the priests of our diocese do that. They have made an observation that confirmed what I have already seen, that we here are very blest. So many of our priests are out there every day, bringing glad tidings to the poor in their parishes and beyond. They bring healing to the sick and sight to the spiritually blind. They restore hope as they announce a year of favor from the Lord.
My brothers and co-workers, I am so grateful to have the privilege to share this vineyard with you. I have come to depend upon you a great deal and I take great comfort in knowing that the ministry with which the Lord has entrusted me is not a burden I need to carry alone.
Even as we celebrate your gifts we need to be ever alert to the pitfalls to which we can easily fall prey. It is so easy over time in almost imperceptible ways to lose that initial fire and commitment—to seek creature comforts and a soft life as some kind of recompense for the sacrifices we have made.
In speaking last month to the Mexican bishops Pope Francis raised a warning that also applies to all of us: “Be vigilant so that your vision will not be darkened by the gloomy mist of worldliness; do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism.”
He went on to warn (Please allow me to quote a bit at length.): “Hence it is necessary for us Pastors to overcome the temptation of aloofness and clericalism, of coldness and indifference, of triumphalism and self-centeredness. Guadalupe teaches us that God is known by his countenance, and that closeness and humble bowing down are more powerful than force.
As the wonderful Guadalupana tradition teaches us, la Morenita gathers together those who contemplate her, and reflects the faces of those who find her. It is essential to learn that there is something unique in every person who looks to us in their search for God. We must guard against becoming impervious to such gazes but rather gather them to our hearts and guard them.”
Only a Church able to shelter the faces of men and women who knock on her doors will be able to speak to them of God. If we do not know how to decipher their sufferings, if we do not come to understand their needs, then we can offer them nothing. The richness we have flows only when we encounter the smallness of those who beg and this encounter occurs precisely in our hearts, the hearts of Pastors.”
So as we gather and bless the holy oils once again we once again we rejoice in the way God will use them to permeate the bodies and souls of our people. And we praise God for those who, thanks to their anointing as priests, will generously share these holy instruments of God. Even as we rejoice we also recognize that with great gifts comes great responsibility.
As the Pope reminded the Church of Mexico we cannot rest on our laurels. What we have received we must give as a gift. It is not enough to do the minimum and to be satisfied with maintaining our comfort. We have been anointed; we belong to God! He needs lives generously given in His service.
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz