By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Welcome back to the beauty and joy of our Chrism Mass to celebrate our unity as the People of God in the Diocese of Jackson, to celebrate the renewal of the priesthood, and the blessing and consecration of the holy oils, all under the loving gaze of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the church at Holy Mass. This is our custom, and we are joyful to reclaim it after three years. It’s been that expanse of time since the Cathedral brimmed with the faithful, yearning to gather once again in the fullness of our Catholic faith. On this day the Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing because the Spirit of the Lord is upon us in whom we have been anointed through faith and Baptism.
The Gospel of St. Luke is the centerpiece of God’s Word for this Liturgical year. Likewise, Luke’s Good News is the cornerstone for our process of synodality which has touched every corner of our diocese over the past several months. The traditional Gospel passage for the Chrism Mass, Jesus’ inaugural address, is also the inspired Word for our regional gatherings, because the anointing of the Spirit of the Lord is the engine that drives renewal and a Year of Favor, liturgically and pastorally, a gift that the world is incapable of giving nor sustaining.
As we gather in Eucharistic unity and solidarity, it is important for us to know and cherish that one of the dominant themes and hopes expressed throughout the diocese in the synod process is a deep-rooted desire for healing and unity. On the one hand, this yearning identifies the loss, pain, and broken relationships from the pandemic’s impact. Beyond this brokenness, the cry of the human spirit for healing and unity, the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s Anointing, also arises from the divisions that plague our church and society, the violence and killings in our communities, the wars that assault the dignity of the human person made in God’s image and likeness, the pain of the victims of sexual abuse, those who still languish and long for healing, and the hurts and struggles that burden the faithful who are in need of reconciliation.
This pervasive woundedness is the bad fruit of sin, original and personal, in the church, in family life, and in the world. Pope Francis is wise when he observes that the church at its core is a field hospital, providing healing and hope for humanity, spiritually and physically.
We grieve these assaults against God’s gift of life, but we do so with hope because of the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ in his life-giving death and resurrection. He died to set free those oppressed by sin and injustice, and we have the power and means to do so.
We are an Emmaus people whom the Lord accompanies on the road to redirect our path when we are lost; he remains with us in the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread through the shedding of his blood on the Cross.
We have the Anointing of the Spirit of the Lord for the blessing and consecration of our Holy Oils, circulating far and wide a season of refreshment and a Year of Favor from the Lord. It is the church as the Good Samaritan pouring in oil and wine, walking the extra mile, and not counting the cost, in order to accomplish the Lord’s mission to foster enduring and eternal freedom, to be a light in the darkness, and to be the Good News of healing and unity It is a mighty task, and in moments of grace, we know that there is no better way to live.
In the midst of God’s dream for humanity, and in the heart of the church is the priest who is Minister of the Word, the Good News of Jesus Christ, Steward of the Sacred Mysteries, the Sacraments and Servant-Leader. Priests with all of the baptized, in good times and in bad, rejoice and struggle, give thanks and ask forgiveness, and seek community and friendship with the Lord, with brother priests, and with the people of God.
In recent times especially, I am grateful to God for the generosity and perseverance of our priests who are walking the extra mile in service to the Lord and God’s people, and in many instances for their esprit de corps as they rally around each other in fraternal support. I thank many throughout our diocese who care for and pray for the priest in their midst. In particular, I give a shout-out to our retired priests who continue to bear the heat of the day, so to speak, stretching themselves in service to the Lord and to the People of God. Thank you! You are an inspiration!
The Chrism Mass celebrates the conviction every year that working in the Lord’s vineyard is the responsibility of all the baptized. The synod process brought home this standard time and again. At the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday, the renewal of the promises of Baptism throughout the universal church recommits all of us to the Lord Jesus’ mission and vision first proclaimed in the Synagogue at Nazareth and sealed in his death and resurrection.
But on this day in the Diocese of Jackson, in a focused and intentional way, the church calls upon the faithful to invoke the Spirit of God to bless our priests who renew their vows to the Lord, their unity with me, their bishop, and their commitment to the Body of Christ. Uniquely, they were anointed, configured to Christ the High Priest, and set apart to serve the deepest yearnings of the faithful for healing and unity. They need your prayers to support their best intentions in order to live their vocations, faithfully and fruitfully, as ministers of God’s Word, stewards of God’s mysteries, and servant-leaders. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love.