Homily for Holy Thursday
Theme: The reality of anointing.
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Thursday, April 18 2019
HOLY THURSDAY: CHRISM MASS YEAR C
The Holy Thursday Liturgy is principally in two parts, one takes place in the morning and the second in the evening. In the morning is celebrated the Chrism Mass which, unless for pastoral reasons, takes place ordinarily in the principal Church of the Diocese, i.e., the Cathedral Church. In this mass, all the priests gather around their bishop, first of all to commemorate the institution of the priesthood. This is concretely manifested with the renewal of the priestly vows which priests made on the day of their ordination before their respective bishops and which signifies their readiness to continue to offer themselves after the example of Christ the High Priest, for the edification and sanctification of the Christian community and for the sanctification of their own souls also. Secondly, the blessing of the three oils, namely, the oil of Chrism, the oil of Catechumens and the oil of the sick/infirmorum also takes place in the mass of this morning. Whereas the oil of the Catechumens and the oil of the Sick are blessed, the oil of Chrism is mixed with the Balsam which gives it its pleasant scent and is consecrated. These three oils constitute the instrumentum laboris – instruments of work for priests in the exercise of their priestly ministries. The oil of the sick is used for the administration of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens is used for exorcism during the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism and it strengthens candidates for baptism to resist the devil and all his antics, and the oil of Chrism is used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination of Priests and Bishops, for the Consecration of Altars and for the Rite of Dedication of Churches. The uniqueness of the oil of Chrism informs the name given to the liturgy of this morning as the Chrism Mass.
One theme that runs across the three readings of this morning is the reality of anointing. To be anointed means to receive the unction for the exercise of a particular function in the community. The reality of men and women anointed for specific purposes has been part and parcel of the community of God’s sons and daughters. The First Reading (Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9) recaptures the fact of this experience amongst God’s children; “the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken.” To be anointed is to be filled with power; the power that liberates and frees us from every form of bondage. In Jesus Christ, we see the Anointed One of God per excellence whose anointing is the very source of all other anointing that there are. In His appropriation of the words of the prophet Isaiah, He teaches us that every anointing points to Him and receives it efficacy from Him. Hence He would conclude, “this text is being fulfilled today even as you listen” (Luke 4:16-21). Outside Christ, no one can truly claim to be anointed for He is the one who “has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power forever and ever. Amen” (Apocalypse 1:5-8).
By virtue of our baptism, each and every one of us is anointed and has received a specific mission to be a witness to the truth of the Gospel in the world. Further still and after the example of Christ the High Priest, every priest is anointed and ordained to perpetuate the presence of Christ in the midst of His people. This he does through the exercise of his priestly duties and the witness of his own life; but most especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. At the Eucharistic table, the identity of the priest is most visibly seen! This ministry is not without its challenges, especially in the modern world with its uncertainty about anything and with its gross crisis of values. Before these challenges, “only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us… for the counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption” (cf. Benedict XVI, Essay on the Church and the Scandal Abuse). Learning to love God is unarguably the path for a fruitful and fulfilling priestly ministry!
As we celebrate our priests today, we pray that all of our priests may be soaked in the love of God and through their personal experience of this divine Love, may they be renewed in the apostolic zeal; Amen. Mary mother of priests – pray for us!
Happy Celebration to my brother priests; Fr Cyril CCE