Homily for the Chrism Mass, Cathedral of
Saint John, Limerick
Archbishop Charles J Brown, Apostolic Nuncio
Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this holy liturgy, in keeping with the most ancient tradition of the Church, a Bishop blesses or consecrates three different forms of holy oil: the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and Holy Chrism. The fact that the Church blesses these oils during Holy Week, the most sacred period of the liturgical year, tells us something important about the nature of the Church herself and about her priorities. Let us reflect on this fact for a moment. The first oil to be blessed tonight will be the Oil of the Sick, which is used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and dying. For most of us, it is the last sacrament we will receive on this earth before we go to God. The Oil of the Sick reminds us that the sick, the suffering and the dying are at the centre of the Church and are at the very heart of her service. Our final sacramental anointing with the Oil of the Sick gives us strength to pass from this world to the life of the world to come, and there is nothing more important than that.
The second oil to be blessed will be the Oil of Catechumens, which is used at the beginning of the celebration of Baptism as part of the prayers of the Church to protect us from the spirit of evil, the father of lies. In fact, the Oil of Catechumens will be used almost exclusively to anoint babies as part of the celebration of Baptism. So already with these two forms of holy oil – the Oil of the sick and the Oil of Catechumens – we understand something about the Church and her priorities. We see human life near its beginning and near its end. Who are the recipients of these anointings? Who is the focus of the Church’s care and concern? The sick, the suffering, small children. It is here that we see the
emerging. Not among the dominant and the powerful of this world, but among the smallest and the weakest, the ones who don’t count for much in the eyes of the world. They are the presence of Christ. Kingdom of God
Jesus is very clear in the Gospel: “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Mother Teresa of
Calcutta used to say that the Gospel – that is, the message of Jesus – is very simple. Five words, spoken by him about the least of his brothers and sisters: “You did it to me”. Pope Francis has reminded us of this truth in a powerful way in these two weeks since his election as the Successor of Peter: “Let us never forget that that authentic power is service…” (Homily, 19 March 2013). He has spoken about the duty of the Church to protect the most vulnerable, “especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew [in his Gospel] lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46).” Yes, the Church must protect the smallest and most vulnerable. In our own time, we must surely think of expectant mothers and of the gift of life, the vulnerable child in the womb. We as Catholics must be absolutely committed to protecting and defending mothers and their unborn babies.
For the rest of this homily go to: Catholic Bishops - Homily Archbishop Brown Apostolic Nuncio at Chrism Mass, Limerick