My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We gather again as we do each year in this Holy Week to bless the holy oils that accompany us along the journey of our Christian life.
We do this every year. But this year is not like any other year. This will be a Lent that we never forget!
A lot has been happening, as we know. This Holy Week, we are welcoming a new Pope — Pope Francis. The first Pope from the New World. The first Pope ever who is the son of an immigrant to America.
So, in this Eucharist we want to pray for our new Pope. May God grant him the courage and wisdom to guide us in the ways of holiness and truth. We also want to pray for our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. May God’s face shine upon him and bless him with peace all the rest of his days.
So my brothers and sisters, as we are gathered in this Chrism Mass, we remember that our Church is ever ancient and ever new! The events of these weeks of Lent have reminded us of this!
The Catholic Church comes from God and belongs to God! Jesus Christ said, “You are Peter! And on this rock I will build my Church. And the powers of death shall never prevail against it!2
This is the promise we live by. The promise that where Peter is, there is the Church. The promise that where the Pope is, there is the Church. And wherever the Church is, we find Jesus. Because Jesus promised he would stay with his Church until the end of the age. Until the new heavens and the new earth.3
By this promise we have been made “Christians,” my brothers and sisters. And these oils we bless tonight remind us of our sacred identity and our sacred mission.
Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and a sign of Christ. As we all know, the word “Christ” means “anointed one.” So to be Christians means we are “anointed ones.”
Anointed with the Holy Spirit through the holy chrism that was used in our Baptism and Confirmation.
Each of us in this Cathedral this evening can say — as we heard Isaiah say in our first reading, and as Jesus said in the Gospel — the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me!
So in blessing these holy oils this evening, we renew our commitment to being Christians, to being “anointed ones.”
One of the Church Fathers, St. Ignatius of Antioch, said that we should not want only to be called Christians. We should want to actually be Christians.4
So let’s make that our prayer tonight! Let’s not be Christians in name only. Let’s be Christians in everything we do, in the daily reality of our lives.
Tonight, in addition to blessing the holy oils, those of us who are priests will renew our priestly vows. This is also something we do every year and it’s another “link” to the Church’s ancient foundations — as we remember that Jesus established the priesthood at his Last Supper with the apostles, which we will celebrate on Holy Thursday.
My dear brother priests, again we know: this year is not like any other year.
In this unforgettable Lent, we are renewing our vows in the light of the beautiful witness to the priesthood that we have been given by our Emeritus Pope Benedict and our new Pope Francis.
These past days I have been praying about it preparing for our liturgy.
In his final address, Benedict said: “Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult, painful decisions — always looking to the good of the Church and not of oneself.”
My dear brothers, this must be our attitude, too. Not for my good but for the good of the Church! Not my will, but God’s will be done! Jesus must increase and we must decrease.5
We heard Christ’s own words in our first reading this evening: You shall be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God.
And our new Pope Francis is calling us to rededicate ourselves to humility and service. He has selected a beautiful motto for his pontificate — “lowly but chosen.”
Don’t you think that these words apply to each of us, my brothers? We are lowly, common, ordinary men. We know the limitations of our temperaments, our abilities. Yet in his mercy Jesus has chosen us and called us by name. He has said to each one of us: Follow me.
My brothers, following our Popes’ example, let’s make humility and service to the Church the foundation for our priesthood. In his inaugural homily, Pope Francis said, “True power is service.” We need the courage to really believe that — and to live that.
Let us thank God tonight for the gift of our priesthood! And let’s promise him that we will live our priesthood with new joy!
Also my brothers and sisters, our world needs a new evangelization! This is the great mission of the Church in our times. Our new Pope Francis has called us to “to respond faithfully to the Church’s perennial mission — to bring Jesus Christ to mankind and to lead mankind to an encounter with Jesus Christ.”
What a beautiful call – the call of the new evangelization, which has been a priority here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, since our local Synod finished in 2003, and it is the main priority of my ministry.
So in this Year of Faith, I would like to mention a few steps we are taking in this area. First, we are launching our new Office for the New Evangelization, which I established in my pastoral letter, Witness to the New World of Faith.
One important area in our local Church here is the evangelization and pastoral care of our immigrants. I appreciate the historic dedication of Cardinal Roger Mahony to this important ministry. Since the beginning of his ministry as a priest, bishop and cardinal he has been dedicated in his efforts to ministering to our immigrant brothers and sisters.
Most recently, he has worked with presidents of Catholic universities and colleges to promote the understanding of the need for our country to find a new way to welcome and value our immigrant communities.
I am grateful that he will continue this ministry, especially now that our national political leaders are preparing for a comprehensive reform of our immigration policies. I look forward to his pastoral collaboration with me in this important work.
Another important priority for the new evangelization is strengthening the ministry of education in the faith that leads to a more intense practice of the faith. We should want to know our faith better so that we can live it more fully, with greater love and devotion.
I appreciate Bishop Thomas Curry’s commitment in this area in the past. And I look forward to his help and his pastoral collaboration with me in the future.
My brothers and sisters, together all of us — pastors and members of the lay faithful, the family of God — are called to serve Jesus and his Gospel with renewed love and joy.
This is, indeed, a new moment of grace for all of us in the universal Church, my dear brothers and sisters!
Let us call on the intercession of Our Lady of the Angels, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. May she accompany each of us and our whole Church here in Los Angeles. May we entrust ourselves like children to her loving care.
1. Readings (Chrism Mass, Year C): Isa. 61:1-3, 6, 8-9; Ps. 89; Rev. 1:5-8; Luke 4:16-21.
2. Matt. 16:18.
3. Isa. 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:2;.
4. Letter to the Magnesians, 4.
5. Luke 22:42; John 3:30.