Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bishop O'Connell's Homily for the 2015 Chrism Mass

Bishop O'Connell's Homily for the 
2015 Chrism Mass

   Last night was the Chrism Mass for the Trenton Dioceses. I will go into more detail of the night next week but I wanted to post the Homily that Bishop O'Connell gave. It was amazing to say the least. 

St.Robert Bellarmine Church, Freehold | March 30, 2015

At critical moments in our life, we find ourselves asking the question, “What does it all mean?”  And when we find an answer, psychologists tell us, we have arrived at maturity.  Finding an answer, however, is no easy task.  It does not simply come with age or the passing of years.  It does not simply happen nor do we simply stumble upon it.  Discovering “Meaning” or purpose in life takes work, takes effort, takes reflection and for those who believe in God, takes prayer.
Some people find the answer to life’s meaning and purpose early on.  Some others, later in life.  Still some others never grasp it.  For most people, however, a significant event or life experience — good or bad, profound or simple — helps reveal life’s meaning and purpose: love and marriage or the birth of a child and raising a family; success at something important or failure to achieve; getting the job or promotion we worked for or losing it; realizing our vocation, taking vows or ordination; transfer to a new assignment; sickness, the death of someone we love or confronting our own mortality.  Life’s experiences hand to us the potential of seeking, knowing, grasping “what it all means.”  At critical moments such as these we can put it all together and understand and out lives change… or not.
For believers, faith in God is the thing gives meaning and purpose to life during these times.  Faith reveals the difference between meaning and absurdity. Faith “connects the dots” so to speak, leading us back to our Creator who made us who and what we are and what we become.  Faith instills within us a sense of meaning and purpose that directs what we do.  The deeper and stronger our faith in God and in his Christ, the more we relate our lives to their essential, God-given meaning and purpose.  For believers, it is hard to imagine life without faith and, yet, so many daily events in our world argue strongly against the convictions of faith.  The Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we place our faith and trust, however, asks only one thing of us: that we believe in him.  That faith, he knew, if it were real and true, would inspire hope and result in love.  For the Christian, for all of us here tonight, that is our purpose, that is the meaning of life: faith, hope and love.
The Lord Jesus Christ founded his Church as a community of faith and prayed the night before he died for its unity: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic faith.  The community of faith that we are and into which we have been baptized as Church reflects the community that is a Blessed Trinity of Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, distinct in personhood yet one in divine reality.  As Church, we are each distinct in our personhood, rich in differences, roles and responsibilities, yet united in what the Letter to the Hebrews describes as “confident assurance in things hoped for and conviction about things we do not see (Hebrews 11: 1).”  What a great gift is our faith.  What a grace!
The Chrism Mass is an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church when the richness of our differences, roles and responsibilities in a diocese — the clergy, the religious, the lay faithful — come together in unity around its bishop to affirm what we believe.  This occasion has “meaning” especially for priests.  And, so, in the midst of the faithful, as your bishop, I would like to share a few thoughts with you, my brother priests.
As priests, we find meaning and purpose in what lies before us , what I, as bishop,  will bless and consecrate, and what you will take home with you tonight for your ministry: oil.  The oil of catechumens.  The oil of the sick.  The oil of chrism.  For you, as priests, the hands of the bishop were laid upon your head in silence followed by the awesome words of the consecrating prayer. You knelt before him and the people of God, a man taken from among them; you rose from your knees a priest of God ordained for them, you become their representative before God. And then the bishop took your folded hands in his, opened them and anointed them with oil, with sacred chrism.  From that moment on, your lives would never be the same again.  The meaning and purpose of your life was changed, transformed and consecrated forever.  Again and again you anoint with the oil of catechumens, bringing the newly baptized into the Church, giving their lives new meaning and purpose.  With delegation from the bishop, you anoint with chrism, confirming their baptismal faith and giving their lives deeper meaning and purpose. You anoint with the oil of the sick, those afflicted with illness, praying for healing or, for others, opening the doors to heaven with final meaning and purpose.  When we raise the host and lift the chalice, we do so with hands anointed with oil.  When we impart absolution, we do so with a hand anointed with oil.  When we witness a marriage, we bless that union with hands anointed with oil.  And when we place our hands on the head of a new priest, we do so with hands anointed with oil, sending men on their way to find for themselves and to lead others to their meaning and purpose.  This is no casual gathering that brings us together tonight, this Chrism Mass, no.  This is a celebration of meaning and purpose that unites us as one priesthood in this our Diocese, anointed as those who came before us, anointed as those who sit beside us, anointed as those yet to fulfill Christ’s call hope to be.  The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.  And in that Spirit, we priests find our truest and deepest meaning and purpose: to bring good news to the poor; to heal the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty and release to the captive whatever that captivity may be; to announce a year of favor, a year of mercy from the Lord.
The oil I bless and you take  is for the sacraments of our Church.  The sacraments are for the people entrusted to our pastoral care.  And the people entrusted to our pastoral care need you, good priests, faithful priests, holy priests.  Priests quick to show forgiveness and mercy.  Priests prepared to preach the God’s Word effectively and well and to move hearts and minds.  Priests ready to give advice born of wisdom and prayer.  Priests who laugh and cry with them.  Priests who know when it’s time to speak and time to listen.  Priests who stand next to them even when there are no words to offer.  Priests who empower them to share their ministry.  Priests who give and do not count the cost.  Priests on whose hands, the oil never dries.  Priests who are truly brothers to one another.  And when we, as priests, close our eyes for the last time on this world, we hope that because o all that our people will say of us: his life meant something; his life had a purpose; his life made a difference; his life was a real, lived witness to that of the Good Shepherd, the Eternal High Priest.

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