2018 CHRISM MASS HOMILY BY ARCHBISHOP PALMER-BUCKLE AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHERAL, ACCRA
Sermon: My dearly beloved, the tradition of our Holy Mother Church recommends that today’s Liturgy take place preferably on Holy Thursday, the day in we commemorate the two inseparable gifts of the Lord Jesus Christ to his Church, namely, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the Ministerial Priesthood at the Jewish Passover.
Today’s Chrism Mass is taking place this Wednesday, as has become our tradition in our Archdiocese in order to enable all our priests (throughout the Archdiocese) to participate in this all-important liturgy, and be able to return thereafter to your parishes and your flock/parishioners for the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Paschal Vigil and Celebration of the Resurrection.
It is at this Holy Mass of Chrism, that the Bishop is required to bless the Oils, namely that of Catechumens, and that for the Anointing of the Sick, and then together with his priests, the Bishop consecrates the Oil of Holy Chrism. It is at this Holy Mass also that all priests, both Diocesan and Religious in this Archdiocese, are expected to make the Renewal of our Priestly Commitment.
Now, taking cue from the theme of our 125th Anniversary: “Renewing our commitment to Evangelization”, I see some connection or resonance with the Renewal of our Priestly Commitment that will take place soon after this sermon. But before then, a reflection on the readings!
1.1: My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the readings of today, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of St. Luke, all focus on God’s call to his service. In all three readings, we see how God anoints with oil and with his Spirit, those he calls to his service; making them into the priestly, kingly and holy people; and he also gives them a specific mission. This is how the Prophet Isaiah puts it:
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord…
Of those God has anointed, Isaiah prophesied: “you will be named ‘priests of the Lord’, they will call you ‘ministers of our God’… all who see them will admit that they are a race whom the Lord has blessed”.
1.2: This special calling and anointing and blessing and sending on mission as prophesied by Isaiah in the First Reading is what Our Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself at the start of his earthly mission, his sending by the spirit to bring the good news to the poor… his mission of evangelization. Yes, when God calls us for a mission, he empowers us in the Holy Spirit, conforming us to his Son Jesus Christ.
1.3: This is what today’s Second Reading, from the Book of Revelation, declares and emphasizes: “…Jesus Christ… (the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth…) has made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father…”
1.4: And so my dearly beloved, today we are celebrating, yes, our calling and anointing as the priestly, kingly and holy people of God. We are “priests of the Lord”… and “ministers of our God”… We are indeed “…a race whom the Lord has blessed”. This is what we become in Christ Jesus, thanks to the anointing with the oils, most especially the Oil of Holy Chrism.
The Oil of Catechumens which is used before Baptism gives the catechumen inner strength and grace to be victorious over sin and evil, and the anointing with the Oil of Holy Chrism configures the baptized to Christ, the Anointed One of God. That is what the title Christos means.
My dearly beloved, it is this same Oil of Holy Chrism that the Church uses in the Sacrament of Confirmation and especially for the Ordination of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops. It is also used for the consecration of Altars and Church buildings, making them holy and sacred to the Lord (see Ex. 40:9-10).
The Oil of the Sick is blessed and used for the anointing of the sick and the infirm as was done in the times of the apostles of Jesus at his behest, (see Mk. 6:13 and 16:18; and James 5:14ff.) It points to the fact of our faith that Jesus the Christ and the Lord, and Saviour of humanity is among us, and is still at work in our midst thanks to the sacraments of the Church.
1.5: Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is not only in the world thanks to the sacraments of the Church, but also in the very institution of the Church, the priestly people, kingly people and holy people of God, also known as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is to us all, anointed by the Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation, and some of us ordained in the Holy Priesthood that the Lord God today gives the mission “to bring the good news to the poor…”
Christ’s mission of evangelization is for all, and this day calls on us all to renew our commitment to that mission. I began this sermon saying that I perceived a spiritual resonance in the theme of our 125th Anniversary and the liturgical rite that today all priests are required to perform religiously and conscientiously, namely, to renew our priestly commitment.
My dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, dear Priestly, Kingly and Holy People of God, my dear brothers in the Holy Priesthood and Religious Life, without any shade of doubt, I can say that “the spirit of the Lord is upon you and me, and he has anointed you and me, and he has sent us to proclaim the good news to the poor…” in the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra, as our theme says: “125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing Our Commitment to Evangelization”.
At the end of the Holy Mass, we all will pray the 125th Anniversary Prayer, asking God to “increase his gifts in us so that we may grow in holiness of life and be truly ardent disciples of Your Son..(to) Inspire us anew with a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit and (to) fill us with renewed zeal for the Church’s New Evangelization mission in our Archdiocese and beyond!”
1.6: Let me now, therefore, invite you, my dear brother Priests and Religious, to rise up and once more renew our priestly commitment supported by our beloved Parishioners, Religious Men and Women.
Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, may our renewal this year also be acceptable unto the Lord our God. Amen!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra,
Wednesday, March 28, 2018.