The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he has anointed me.
At the end of the Lenten Season, we gather today for the consecration of the oils used for the sacraments of the Church. At the same time, as we approach the “night he was betrayed,” priests gather around their bishop to remember their own anointing when they were ordained. It had to be this day when Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Orders that both the anointing of Christ and of his priests be celebrated in this Chrism Mass. The opening prayer today speaks of Jesus as the one anointed with the Holy Spirit by the Father and also of ourselves as “made sharers in his consecration.”
What does it mean to be consecrated? In his 2nd volume of Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Father says, “Consecration means that God is exercising a total claim over this man, ‘setting him apart’ for himself, yet at the same time, sending him out for the nations.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, part 2, p. 87) The Father consecrated Jesus. Thus, Jesus belongs entirely to the Father. And that is what makes Jesus “entirely for all.” Being for the Father, Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice “for the life of the world” (John 6:51). “Jesus is the priest sent into the world by the Father; he himself is the sacrifice that is made present in the Eucharist of all times.” (Jesus of Nazareth, part 2, p. 88)
You and I, being disciples of the Lord, are drawn into Jesus’ consecration. We too “are included in this reappropriation into God’s sphere and the ensuing mission for the world.” (Jesus of Nazareth, part 2, p. 89) In making us sharers in Christ’s consecration, the Father exercises a total claim over our persons as well. We belong entirely to the Father. And Jesus consecrated us in truth – “not just ritually, but truly, in (our) whole being.” (Ibid.) The priesthood we share with Jesus is more than just a ritual function. It is more than a 9 to 5 job or a profession. This priesthood is who we are – the truth in the ontological level. We are priests even outside the confines of the parish or even of the diocese. We are priests even outside our ritual functions. We are consecrated in the very core of our beings. Ordination produced an ontological change in who we are. It configured us with Christ the High Priest. The Spirit who anointed Jesus is the same Spirit who anoints us. The Spirit who sent Jesus to bring glad tidings to the poor is the same Spirit who sends us in an identical mission. The Spirit who made Jesus the “bearer of the oil of gladness” makes us the same: “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called.”
Bearers of glad tidings to the poor and bearers of the oil of gladness to those who mourn – this is what we are, dear priests of Jesus Christ. This we are because, by who we are and what we do, we bring Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus. It is Jesus who is the joy of every human heart. Jesus is the one “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own Blood.” “Jesus Christ (is), the ‘pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 13.) It is our task to bring people to Christ: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”(Porta Fidei, 2) “It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples.” (Porta Fidei, 7)
Therefore, as we renew today our ordination promises, let us keep in mind that we are committing ourselves not only to a task but to the very person of Jesus Christ. He is our first and only love. “Prompted by love of him, (we) willingly and joyfully pledged (our sacred duties towards Christ’s Church) on the day of (our) priestly ordination.” (Renewal of Priestly Promises) Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him singing for joy! (Psalm 100:2)