CHRISM MASS 2018
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Holy Thursday, 10:30am 29 March 2018
“This is a unique celebration. We gather around the table of the Lord to celebrate the Eucharist as a diocesan community. We have priests and lay representatives of every parish community, of every type of ministry or service, gathered with the Bishop around the Lord’s Table. I thank all of you for being here and I thank you and the communities you represent for your daily commitment to the life of the Church of Jesus Christ in this diocese. It is good to gather together to celebrate the Eucharist.
We come to bless and consecrate the oils that will be used in the coming year in the celebration of the sacraments, the signs of the presence in the Church of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.
The oil of catechumens is the oil of baptism, from which arises the central calling of all of us as Christians. That oil represents newness in Christian life. It is oil of the birth of new Christians through their incorporation into the life of Jesus Christ and into the Church. It reminds us of the fundamental call to holiness of each Christian, of the call to witness to Jesus, to use words of Pope Benedict, in a world in “which so many of the men and women of today do not know where to find God”.
The blessing of oils reminds us that the saving power of Jesus is found in the Church, where Jesus is present through his action and protection. You might ask, what does that mean to the many in our world and in our diocese who find the Church alienating – to those who repeatedly proclaim that they believe in God but not in the Church?
We have to remember that even when the members and the leadership in the Church fail, Jesus’ salvation remains there to challenge us and stands there to judge us in our failings. When the Church becomes caught up in its own structures or in the ways of the world, it fails Jesus but Jesus never fails us.
The oil of Chrism is an oil of consecration used in baptism and confirmation and is also a sign of the special consecration of bishops and priests, a sign of their dignity and their special configuration to Christ in the service of the Church.
This Mass is a particular moment in which we celebrate priestly ministry and the fellowship of priests. It is good to be together as we renew our commitment to our calling and to our mission within the Church. The priest is called from among the baptised to a unique ministry, but it always a ministry of service and fidelity to the word of God, to the celebration of the Eucharist and to the pastoral care of God’s people.
All ministry of the Church is a ministry of service that must be exercised in such a way as to reflect the caring work of Jesus Christ in our midst. That special care of Jesus is witnessed also in the third oil we bless, the oil of the sick, used in the sacrament that brings comfort support and hope to those who are at the weakest moments in their life.
Wherever Jesus preached the Good News he also showed special concern for those who were sick or troubled or weighed down with the burdens of life’s challenges. Every community of the disciples of Jesus must be marked by concrete concern for those who in life suffer and are marginalised.
The oil of the sick is a reminder of the special place of cherishing life in the ministry of the Church. Every human life is precious at any moment in its existence and no matter what condition in which it may find itself. The Church is pro-life and its pro-life message is not simply an occasional political platform but something deeper and irreplaceable. Every human life is created in the image of God. No one is excluded from God’s loving care and from the care of the believers in Jesus Christ.
While today we celebrate the distinctiveness of priesthood in a special way, we would be wrong to look on priesthood as a ministry of the Church over and above other ministries. The priest is the servant.
We are fortunate to have in this diocese a wide variety of ministries that are all bound together. Our Deacons are called to a ministry of service. We have the wonderful service of our Parish Pastoral Workers, women and men, in a pioneering ministry that reaches out in new and creative ways. We have religious, male and female, and in particular parish sisters who serve with great discretion especially with the marginalised. We have dedicated administrative staff. We have our services of Crosscare and Accord for the marginalised and for families.
This year we will celebrate the World Meeting of Families with the presence of Pope Francis. Why a World Meeting for Families? Let me share some reflections with you. The World Meeting is not just a five-day event but a moment in which we focus of the mission of families within the Church and society. In families, life and faith and love are celebrated and lived in an integrated way.
Spouses witness to Jesus through their love for each other. The sexual love of spouses mirrors in its own way the tenderness of God’s love. The love of spouses is a call to fidelity in love, reflecting the fidelity of God to his people. Families welcome new life and embrace the children God may give them with the warmth of God’s love expressed in a human fashion.
Family life is not easy. Families are under enormous challenge. There is a sense in which the struggle of families is central to understanding many of the social challenges of life today: families struggle financially; they grapple with uncertainty about the values of society; refugees long to be reunited with their families or are struggling to keep their families together. Many more families are homeless, but in the face of indignity they still keep heroically alive their love as spouses and their love or their children.
I am really saddened by the fact that in the Capuchin Day Centre for the homeless they have had to open a special section where homeless families can share a meal together. These are parents and their children without a home who are, thank God, offered the possibility of being together to share – what we all wish to do – a family meal.
The failures of the Church in the past and the present very often struck at the lives of families. I have heard the cry of parents who experienced the pain of one or other family member having been abused and many were not listened to. Women who found themselves as single parents were often taken away from their children and at times children were left without knowing that they belonged to a family and had brothers and sisters. Where the church failed families and children then the Church failed Jesus himself.
Families vary. It is hard today to socially define what we call “the traditional family”. Every family has its own personal story and its own personal history. They are all different. Children are brought up in different settings, by married couples, by grandparents, by single parents, by non-married couples, by separated couples, by gay and lesbian couples. This is a statement of fact not of ideology. The Church must work to help that all these children are loved and are introduced to an appreciation of the Gospel of love.
The Church must of course also find new and robust ways to attract future generations to an integral understanding of the beauty of Christ’s unchanging teaching on marital love and fidelity. Passing on the Christian understanding of marriage and families is another difficult challenge for families.
Family is central to the lives of all and also to the care and ministry of the Church. As a Church in this diocese, we have to rediscover the irreplaceable role of families in our understanding of ministry. Parents have inalienable rights regarding the education of their children. As Church communities we need to find structures of dialogue with parents on this issue.
There is no ideal family but there is an ideal of family that springs from the teaching of Jesus. We have great families and we have families that fail. Here today we gather together. We do not put any of us under the microscope of where we are in our search for perfection. We are all sinners on a constant path of conversion. We learn to work together and support each other, to pray for each other.
I know just how much the laymen and women of this diocese appreciate and support the work of their priests. I know how priests seek to support families in their difficult challenges and how they learn from the goodness and generosity of families.
Family is about love and none us can claim that our love does not need constant purification. Together let us allow the powerful love of Jesus take hold of us in our imperfection.
We place the World Meeting of Families under the protection of the Mary and of the Holy Family of Nazareth. We pray that the Church will become more visibly the community that witnesses to the care of Jesus and which enables every family to realise its dream for fulfilment and the healthy growth of children.” ENDS