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Anointed by God

Archbishop Wenski's homily at chrism Mass 2022

Archbishop Thomas Wenski greets archdiocesan priests as they enter St. Mary Cathedral for the chrism Mass, April 12, 2022. More than 200 priests and five bishops gathered for the annual Mass, celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Eighteen priests were honored for marking 70, 60, 50 and 25 years of ordination, and the archbishop also was recognized as this marks his 25th year as a bishop.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski greets archdiocesan priests as they enter St. Mary Cathedral for the chrism Mass, April 12, 2022. More than 200 priests and five bishops gathered for the annual Mass, celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Eighteen priests were honored for marking 70, 60, 50 and 25 years of ordination, and the archbishop also was recognized as this marks his 25th year as a bishop.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the annual chrism Mass, celebrated April 12, 2022, the Tuesday of Holy Week, at St. Mary Cathedral.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me!” Jesus chooses this text of Isaiah for his first sermon. This is no coincidence – with Jesus, nothing is improvised. 

Isaiah is the great prophet of the promised Messiah. It is Isaiah who speaks of the Virgin who will conceive a son; he also describes for us the suffering servant; and in today’s passage he speaks of the servant who is anointed the Messiah – the Christ – by the Spirit. He goes on to describe Christ’s mission: to announce the Good News to the poor, to restore sight to the blind, to free the captive and the oppressed, to declare a Jubilee.

It is as though Isaiah has written a job description for Jesus – and Jesus in quoting Isaiah also succinctly presents to all his baptized disciples our own “marching orders.” That Luke puts this passage from Isaiah at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry is the interpretive key to understanding all that would follow in the Gospel. He unveils for us the identity of Jesus and as "Christened people," the more we understand Jesus' identity, the more we will understand our own. For the Spirit of the Lord God has also anointed us. 

Archbishop emeritus John C. Favalora presents his successor, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, with a plaque commemorating his 25th anniversary as a bishop during the chrism Mass, April 12, 2022.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop emeritus John C. Favalora presents his successor, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, with a plaque commemorating his 25th anniversary as a bishop during the chrism Mass, April 12, 2022.

Thus, at this Mass, we bless the Holy Oils and consecrate the Sacred Chrism. Today’s Mass is a celebration for all God’s people because the itinerary of our lives as Catholics is marked by various anointings. As we were prepared for baptism, we were anointed with the Oil of Catechumens; then, in Baptism and Confirmation with the Sacred Chrism. Please God, at the end of our lives, we will receive a final anointing – with the Oil of the Sick so that, at that hour, the Spirit will strengthen and console us.

These oils then are closely linked to the Paschal Mystery – for through them the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, through them the Holy Spirit conforms us more perfectly to Christ, so that we might spread the fragrance of his presence throughout the world as we grow in the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.

But today’s Mass is also of special significance to all of us priests. This Mass is a special sign of the unity of our priesthood and witnesses that we – bishop and priests – share a common ministry to teach, to govern and to sanctify the people of God.

And so, the Chrism Mass itself offers the priests of a local Church – as they gather around their bishop – the opportunity to renew our priestly commitments. In saying once again “I do,” we commit ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit, “to understand what we do, to imitate what we celebrate, to conform our lives to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”

That we do so is not to deny our own shortcomings, our limitations, and our weaknesses, as if all depended on our own force and will. But, in doing so, we wish to entrust ourselves once again to the Lord who through the gift of his Spirit has anointed us – despite our unworthiness – as ministers of the Word and stewards of the mysteries of faith. For as St. John Paul II reminded us: “the priest – like every other member of Christ – ought to grow in the awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized” (Pastores Dabo Vobis).

A popular book published in 1972 – the year our golden jubilarians were ordained – was Henri Nouwen’s, “The Wounded Healer.” In his book, Nouwen insists that our frailties should not cause us feelings of inadequacy or guilt; rather they are the conditions in which we experience God’s healing grace. In other words, to paraphrase St. Paul, we are “made strong in our weakness” to be a source of healing to others. And so, knowing that we carry this treasure of our priestly vocation in earthen vessels, we ask you, dear members of Christ’s faithful, to pray for us. Pray that we will faithfully carry out the ministry entrusted to us by God for you. 

This past February, in a reflection on the priesthood which he described as his “swan song,” Pope Francis urged priests to respond to the challenge of change amid the tensions, complexities and ambiguities of the present time, with attitudes and actions that have the “flavor” of the Gospel. And he spoke of four pillars on which priestly life is built. First, closeness to God: intimacy with God, with Jesus, fostered in prayer and in the sacraments will help us to embrace the challenges of ministry without fear. Second, closeness to the bishop – the bishop, whoever he is, remains for each priest and each particular Church a bond that helps discern the will of God. The third pillar is closeness of other priests: Fraternity means to choose to pursue holiness together with others, and not just by oneself. And the fourth pillar, closeness to people, which the Pope insists is not a duty but a grace.

Today we honor our jubilarians who have indeed exhibited throughout their priestly ministry attitudes and actions that do reflect the flavor of the Gospel. In the name of the People of God of this local Church, I thank our jubilarians and each priest here for the “yes” given on the day of their ordinations that we will soon renew together.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches his homily from the "cathedra" or bishop's chair from which the word "cathedral" is derived. The chrism Mass was celebrated April 12, 2022 at St. Mary Cathedral.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches his homily from the "cathedra" or bishop's chair from which the word "cathedral" is derived. The chrism Mass was celebrated April 12, 2022 at St. Mary Cathedral.

We honor this morning a number of jubilarians. Not all are present at this Mass, but all have devoted years of service to this local Church. Msgr. Emilio Martin celebrates 70 years of priesthood; Msgr. Jose Luis Hernando, Fathers Jose Luis Paniagua, Juan Lopez, and Sean Mulcahy celebrate 60 years; Isidor Baky, Peter Lambert, Joaquin Rodriguez and Juan Sosa are celebrating 50 years; also celebrating 50 years are the Jesuit Fathers: Pedro Suarez, Eduardo Barrios, Pedro Gonzalez, Manuel Maza, Alberto Garcia, and Willy Arias. (1972 must have been a good year!)

We also want to acknowledge our silver jubilarians: Fathers Peter Yunping Lin, Luis Garcia and Fernando Orejuela. And next May, God willing, we will ordain three new priests for this local Church.

Again, thank you for the “yes” of your witness, your fidelity given daily – despite difficulties and disappointments, despite trials and tribulations – over many years of service to God and his people.

And in renewing the promises made on the day of our ordinations, we put ourselves again at the service of Christ’s love so that he will be known, loved and imitated. Yes, the Spirit of the Lord God is upon us! For he has anointed us!