My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It is a great joy to gather for our Chrism Mass as one family of God — bishops and priests; deacons and seminarians; religious, consecrated, and the lay faithful.
This is the Church alive! And it is wonderful to see.
Tonight we remember our Baptism, when the priest anointed us with the holy chrism. With the prophet in tonight’s first reading, we say:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
We are anointed in Baptism to be priests and prophets — to be a people who seek to make God’s Kingdom come into this world.
The second reading we heard tonight, from the Book of Revelation, says that Jesus Christ has set us free and “made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”
Now I know: most of you who are here are not ordained and you don’t go through your daily lives thinking of yourselves as “priests.”
But you should. Because this is the great adventure of Christian living — this is God’s beautiful dream for our lives. We all participate in the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ sets us free — to be holy as he is holy; to love as he loves. He sets us free to live as he does, as sons and daughters of God our Father.
And my brothers and sisters, when we truly understand this path that Jesus is calling us to walk — it gives our lives new meaning and a new direction.
Pope Francis says: “When the Lord invites us to become saints, he doesn’t call us to something heavy or sad. Quite the contrary! It’s an invitation to share in his joy, to live and to offer with joy every moment of our life, by making it become at the same time a gift of love for the people around us.”2
Jesus is calling us tonight, once again, to experience our lives as a gift of love. A beautiful gift that we receive from God. He is calling us to see our daily work as a sacrifice and as a service of love that we offer to God and to our brothers and sisters.
The great martyr, Blessed Oscar Romero — who will be canonized this year — once said: “How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work.”3
So, we all need to rediscover the power of this “priestly” anointing we have received in Baptism.
And today — tonight — as we present these holy oils for blessing, let us ask Jesus to renew our desire to share in his priestly mission of consecrating the world to God.
Now, my dear brother priests, let us remember that we have been chosen from among all in the faithful to be spiritual fathers of the family of God — to teach and guide and sanctify God’s children.
Being a priest is not something that we do. Being a priest is somebody we are.
In the mystery of his love, Christ chooses you and chooses me — despite our weakness, despite our sinfulness and unworthiness. In the mystery of his love, Jesus chooses to exercise his priesthood through us.
Through our priesthood, the anointing that Jesus begin in that synagogue at Nazareth, continues — bringing glad tidings to the poor, and liberty to those in captivity, and eyesight to the blind.
My dear brothers, in you and in me — in our priesthood — our people find the face of Jesus Christ. And in the face of Jesus Christ, they discover who they are meant to be.
So, let us continue walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Let us continue to work — the work of sanctifying our brothers and sisters, helping them to grow in his likeness.
The last few days, maybe months, I’ve been reflecting about the life of Blessed Oscar Romero.
When you read the story his life, you see that his priestly vocation was encouraged by the witness of his pastor and by a young seminarian from his parish.
And I started thinking — that behind every saint — there is always an ordinary priest who helped the saint to walk on the path of holiness.
Saints are not born, they are made. And holiness is always, as we know, God’s work, not ours. But again, God accomplishes his work of sanctification — through the everyday ministry of ordinary priests.
So, my dear brothers, what I am trying to say is this: Through the humility of your ministry; through the Eucharists you celebrate with reverence and the homilies you prepare with prayer — all of them always brief and short, is that right? Including mine? Through the spiritual guidance you offer in the confessional; and through all the many ways you spend yourselves in selfless service to God’s children — you are “making saints” every day.
This is a beautiful work that few people will ever see. But God sees. You may never find out until you get to heaven — but you may be helping to form the “next Romero” or the “next Mother Teresa.”
When he was a young seminarian, Blessed Oscar Romero wrote: “The Lord has inspired in me a great desire for holiness."4
And during his many years as a parish priest and later as a bishop, Blessed Romero would seek to inspire that same desire for holiness in the poor and the oppressed, the brokenhearted and the prisoner.
He would say: “The saints have been the most ambitious people. … And this is my ambition for you and for me,” he said, “to be great … Because we are God’s image and we cannot be content with mediocre greatness.”5
So my dear brothers as we renew the promises of our vocation tonight, let us make this our ambition — to keep growing in holiness and keep helping our people to become great saints.
And let us continue, all of us, to pray together tonight as one family of God.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us — that we might all renew our desire for holiness and to be God’s priestly people.
1. Readings: Isa. 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9; Ps. 89:21-22, 25, 27; Rev. 1:5-8; Luke 4:16-21.
2. General Audience (November 19, 2014).
3. Homily (November 20, 1977), in The Violence of Love: The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero (Harper & Row, 1988), 13.
4. James Brockmas, Romero: A Life (Orbis, 1989), 38-39.
5. Homily (September 23, 1979), Violence of Love, 199.