My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It’s a great joy to be with all of you at the beginning of Holy Week and the celebration of our Chrism Mass.
Tonight we stand together in the presence of Almighty God. As one family, as one Church. We are the Kingdom of God, now present in creation, as we heard in tonight’s second reading from Revelation:
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood,
who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father,
to him be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen.
This is who we are. We are men and women who know the love of Christ and the freedom that he brings into our lives. Men and women who live now — as priests for God.
The ordained priesthood is something precious and rare. This vocation is a gift that is given to a few — for the benefit of the rest. And every year on this night we remember and celebrate God’s beautiful gift of the priesthood!
These oils that we will bless tonight — these are the signs of our “priestly” mission in the world. Again — the Church’s mission is not only for priests and bishops. It is a mission for all of us who are baptized.
The Oil of the Sick that we bless tonight is a sign that we are called to be healers in this world where people are hurting and divided.
And my brothers and sisters, I know that for many of you in your ministries — in our parishes and communities — these are troubled times. Our families are afraid and uncertain. There is too much confusion, too much anger.
So more than ever, I think it is important for all of us to commit ourselves to building what Pope Francis calls “a culture of dialogue and encounter.”2
Tonight we also bless the Oil of the Catechumens.
This is a sign of our “priestly” mission to proclaim Jesus Christ and to make disciples. Again, this mission is given to all of us. But in a special way tonight, I want to talk about this with you, my dear brother priests.
As I said, all of us in the Church have a priestly identity and vocation. But you and I, my brothers — we have been chosen for a special consecration.
You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord,
ministers to our God you shall be called.
These words from the prophet Isaiah that we heard tonight — they speak to the dignity of our calling.
Every priest is ordained for others — not for ourselves. We are called us to serve the family of God — as fathers and brothers, as teachers and witnesses.
And let me just say, once again, thank you for your life and ministry to the family of God in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Thank you for your generosity and dedication in your parishes and ministries.
My brothers, I have been thinking a lot about our mission as teachers. As you know, my first pastoral priority has been education in the faith.
This is why I wrote a pastoral letter recently, “For Greater Things You Were Born” — to teach about Jesus and the beautiful plan of God.
Now of course, in our secularized society, it is crucial for our people to know solid doctrine.
So as we teach the truths of our faith and the story of salvation told in the Sacred Scriptures, we need to help our people discern the signs of the times — so they know what the Gospel demands of us, as disciples at this moment.
But teaching the faith, as we know, means more than that. Our goal is not to make people smarter. Our goal is to change lives, to lead people to holiness, to become saints. Our goal is to bring people to a true encounter with Jesus Christ.
This kind of teaching demands — requires — more than words. It means we need to teach with the “testimony of our lives.”
Pope Francis says, “We priests are apostles of joy."3
As apostles of joy, priests are sent to proclaim the “glad tidings” that Jesus proclaims in the Gospel tonight.
And I wanted to share tonight with all of you that, in my own life, I was blessed to have the teaching of many good priests, as I’m sure we all did.
I still remember my parish priest growing up, Padre Guillermo.
I especially remember his Sunday homilies — he made the Gospels real for me. With simple words and examples, he helped us to understand the living Gospel, the life and teachings of Jesus.
Then, as I was ordained a priest, St. John Paul II was starting his pontificate. And at the heart of St. John Paul’s teaching was always the truth about Jesus Christ.
Yesterday I was reading one of the teachings that he gave in Los Angeles, 30 years ago, this coming September. The Pope offered this beautiful reflection:
“Be assured the Lord knows each of you by name and wishes to speak to your heart in a dialogue of love and salvation. … Listen to his voice! Do not be afraid! Open up your hearts to Christ. The deepest joy that there is in life is the joy that comes from God and is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God."4
So, my dear brothers, tonight as we renew our priestly vows, let us open our hearts and listen to his voice. Let us renew the joy of our vocation that we have found in our love for Jesus.
And tonight let us dedicate ourselves once again to sharing our love and joy with our people.
And to all of you, my dear brothers and sisters, as we pray for our priests and bless these oils tonight, let us renew our “priestly soul’ and “priestly” vocation.
May Our Blessed Mother Mary, help all of us to renew our love for Jesus and dedicate our lives again — to serving him and building his Kingdom.