Catholic Homily for Holy Thursday (Chrism Mass)
Homily Theme: The power of anointing
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
The Triune God is the fount and source of every anointing. The divine act of anointing is made concrete in our midst through sacramental signs that powerfully confer the realities they signify to those who dispose themselves to God’s design. Only through this divine act do the people of God participate in the rank of the Lord’s anointed, becoming priests, kings and prophets after the identity of God’s only Begotten, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Priest and the Prophet. May the anointing conferred on us by God neither become fruitless nor run dry; Amen.
One central theme in the readings of today’s morning Liturgy is that of Anointing. These readings not only remind us that the power of anointing is real, but also they lead us to understand the connection between the two liturgical celebrations that normally take place today; namely the Chrism Mass and the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The first takes place in the morning and the other takes place in the evening. The First Reading (Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9) introduces us to this theme of anointing in a prophetic way that immediately brings us to reflect about Christ; “the Lord has anointed me.” Ordinarily, to anoint means to rub something or somebody with oil or with a similar substance. The sacramental or religious meanings of anointing superbly transcend this. To be anointed in sacramental or religious terms means to be imbued with grace and power, and to be deputed for a specific mission or service through a specified rite. In the absolutely superlative sense, to speak of anointing is to speak of the _Messiah_; namely to speak of Christ. Underlying this theme of anointing, three oils are blessed in the Liturgy of today. First is the Oil of the Sick with which the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is administered; conferring on the corporeally feeble the grace of healing in body, soul and spirit. Second is the Oil of Catechumens used also during the administration of the Sacrament of the Baptism, conferring the grace of liberation from every form of foul spirits and making sacramentally present the power of exorcism and rendering one docile and receptive for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The third is the Oil of Chrism, from which the Morning Mass of Holy Thursday gets its name. Three Sacraments are conferred with the Oil of Chrism; Baptism, Confirmation and the last two grades of the Holy Orders. Whereas the other two oils are blessed, the Oil of Chrism, mixed with the Balsam that gives it a sweet smelling fragrance is consecrated. This fragrance is a perceptible sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit who is the agent and the principle of every anointing from above. This fragrance is also a sign of God’s presence which every anointed person must represent. The centrality of the Oil of Chrism in today’s Liturgy is borne out of the great link between the name of this oil and the name _Christ_. Christ simply means an anointed one. In fact, Jesus was actually professing His true identity in the incidence at His visit to the Synagogue in the Gospel Reading (Luke 4:16-21); “the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for He has anointed me.” Whereas many are anointed for various missions, both in the Old and New Testaments, Jesus is the truly anointed One; He is the Christ, the Messiah of all. Every other anointing is a form of participation in Christ’s anointing, made effective by the Holy Spirit.
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These three Oils that are blessed in the Liturgy of today reflect also, in a way, the various levels through which one can participate in the prerogative of Jesus as _the Christ_. That we are called Christians point us to that also; that we are a gathering of anointed people of God. In Christ is found the prototypical anointing, for it is proper and natural to His identity and mission to be “the anointed One of God”, in the sense that all the acts of anointing which were done in the Old Testament were pre-figurations of the anointing of Christ by the will of the Father and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, all the acts anointing of the New Testament receive their efficacy through the merits of Christ and by the power of the same Spirit, and to the greater glory of God. Through this anointing, we participate also in the threefold offices of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. Hence, the Second Reading (Revelation 1:5-8) speaks of all the baptised in a language that is royal, priestly and missionary; Christ “made us a line of kings, priests to serve His God and Father.” Christ was anointed to serve; “He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor…” As such every anointing is for service and for mission. To disconnect anointing from service and from mission is to empty it totally of its purpose. The status and dignity of being anointed for service are true for all of us with respect to the Common Priesthood we share. But in a most special way also, priests, as ordained ministers of the New Covenant, are anointed to become higher models in the rank of servers, acting in the person of Christ the Eternal High Priest. Hence, at the Chrism Mass, the Institution of the Ministerial Priesthood is commemorated, re-enacting that day when Christ, at the Last Supper, conferred on the apostles the sacred power to consecrate and transubstantiate bread and wine into His sacred Body and Blood by the power of the Holy Spirit. With the Chrism Oil priests are ordained for service, such that through the merits of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, they make Christ substantially present through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Also, through the sacramental use of these blessed oils, they spiritually and corporeally bring their brothers and sisters to life in Christ. In all of these, it is still the power of Jesus’ anointing that is at work. The Father is the source of anointing! The Spirit is the very Agent of this anointing! The Son is the ultimately anointed One! And together, it is the One God, in the Father and the Son and the Holy, Who works the wonders of the reality of anointing in our midst.
Lord God, renew the grace and power of Your anointing in all of us and in all Christian communities. Bless all priests, that we may continue to fan into flame the gifts of grace we received when the Council of Elders laid their hands on us, and when we were anointed with the Oil of gladness; Amen.
Happy Celebration and A Grace-filled New Month of April to you.
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Homily for Holy Thursday (Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper)