Newly Elected – Ambassadors for the People
Two weeks ago, following the General Election in February, 158 TDs took their seats in Dáil Éireann. Two thirds of the TDs were members of the Dáil previously, and one third are newly elected members. Each one who was interviewed spoke of the privilege it is to have been elected by their constituents and sent by them to represent them in Leinster House. The elected representatives are, if you like, ambassadors for their people, and they have acknowledged that they have accepted the job with humility and with understandable pride. They now serve as the bridge between their people and the parliament, and between the people and the Government when it takes office.
Priests – Ambassadors for Christ
The First Letter to Timothy acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and His people. He is our priest and is one with God and one with us – faithful to God, trustworthy and compassionate in solidarity with us. We all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ in different ways – by our baptism or by ordination. Our priesthood makes no sense and has no meaning apart from Jesus Christ. The Chrism Mass each year affords us an opportunity to celebrate the Priesthood of Jesus Christ in which we share, to thank God for this gift, renew our priestly ministry of service and joyfully accept our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ. Our priestly ministry however is only possible if we ourselves are in close contact with Jesus Christ in our daily prayer. If He is not central to our ministry then inevitably we lack integrity and authenticity.
Centrality of the Cross
Each year we celebrate the Chrism Mass in the shadow of Good Friday and the cross. In so many ways this is very appropriate. The whole mission and ministry of Jesus is never far from the cross. Indeed the cross casts a long shadow back to the very beginning of the gospel. Here in the Archdiocese we have had a very clear reminder of the way in which the cross impinges on all of us in the past few weeks. Yet as men and women of Easter hope we recognise that the cross can never be separated from the resurrection. The tomb of death has been transformed by Jesus Christ into the womb of new life. And so it is with courage that we are all reminded that if we wish to be a follower of Jesus we must take up the cross every day.
Jesus – Understanding of the Cross
Right through his ministry Jesus is reaching out and acknowledges how the cross weighs heavily on different people and sets about lifting that burden with and for them as He heals the sick, comforts the bereaved, feeds the hungry and consoles the downhearted.
The Priest Sharing the Cross with those he ministers to
The ministry of the priest is exercised in that context shouldering the cross with all people. This is something which priests do as they respond to the raw hurt of peoples’ lives, blessing and consoling the sick with Christ’s healing sacrament of anointing, comforting the afflicted when they minister as ambassadors of a welcoming and forgiving Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, bringing hope to those who see no future, helping those who are struggling by feeding them at the table of God’s word and the Eucharist.
Blessing of Oils – Healing Ministry
In our celebration of the Chrism Mass this evening we bless the oils which will bring comfort, consolation and strength to the people of God. This links us with the healing ministry which will be celebrated by the priests throughout the length and breath of the Archdiocese in the year ahead. The Chrism will be used to sign new Christians with the Cross, to seal them for Christ. This sweet smelling oil will remind them that they are, as St. Paul says, to be the “aroma of Christ” spreading fragrance wherever they go. (2 Cor 2:14-15).
Renewal of Priesthood – Ambassadors of Mercy
Today, we thank God for the gift of priesthood and renew the promises we made on Ordination Day. This year we renew our commitment before the backdrop and in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. A particular priestly task this year is for us to proclaim “the Lord’s year of favour” to proclaim the Lord’s unfathomable mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation. In the confessional a powerfully soothing balm awaits those burdened by sin, by fear or embarrassment; burdened by not knowing exactly what to say. Here the gentleness of Christ awaits those burdened in any way. It encourages and enables them to offload their burdens and go forward with a lighter step and with joy in their hearts. Paul reminds us that “this is God’s work” and “it is God who reconciles us to himself and has given us the work of handing on this reconciliation”. May we as priests be true ambassadors for Christ during this Jubilee Year of Mercy and be generous in making the sacrament of reconciliation a priority in our ministry.
Dependence on the Prayers of the Faithful
As priests we recognise that we are dependent on the prayers, support, encouragement and advice of those to whom we minister. As we approach the celebration of the central mystery of our religion we plead for prayers for our priests, that we may be faithful to God’s call and compassionate in our service to the people of God.