Today the Mass of the blessing of Holy Oils occurs again as a joyful day. It is indeed a day of joy when we priests gather to celebrate our calling and to be reminded of the powerful, sacred means by which God called and empowered us to serve his Church and by which he energizes the sacramental life of his people. These are the Holy Spirit which we have received, the Oil of Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and the oil of Chrism with which we sanctify God’s people in the sacraments and God’s people themselves who are our asset and with whom we are co-responsible for the work of evangelization. On this day as well priests all over the world normally gather around their Bishop and renew their vows of fidelity to Jesus Christ and the authority of the Church invested in the Bishop. With the people of God all around their priests hardly any other Mass exudes such a family feeling during the year as the Mass of Chrism does. Unfortunately, this year such is very different. Nonetheless, to the priests, Religious and people of the diocese of Oyo therefore I say, happy Celebration of the Mass of Chrism,
It is a most unusual atmosphere in this Cathedral at the Chrism Mass this year which we are having to celebrate with a very small representative number of the people of God because of the Corona Virus pandemic. We are compelled to ask God to heal our world, heal our land and heal his people so that we may return to the best of times in worship of him. We pray for the authorities, for Doctors, Pharmacists, Nurses, Carers, donors priests and all others who are working hard to stop diseases and especially CORONA virus. May God strengthen them and make them successful in their work. Let me say that in some dioceses this Mass has been postponed to a better date to allow the priest to all participate. It is an option we have decided not to take. I feel that this day is like a birthday for priestly brotherhood which we wish to celebrate in defiance of COVID 19 and other diseases and problems which assail us. We prefer to pray for healing for our sick world, country and peoples that God may visit us soon and restore us.
“Come down, Lord the world is ill wracked with disease, the livelong day…” New Catholic Hymn Book no 63.
Lay your hand gently upon us. Let their touch bring us your peace. Let them bring your forgiveness and healing, Lay your hands gently lay your hands….
It is no secret to anyone that so many things in our life have had to change in the last few weeks. The Church has complied with all restrictions from the experts and civil authorities not out of cowardice but because COVID 19 threatens human life which is a gift from God and is sacred. The Church is unapologetically pro-life and would do anything to preserve and protect life. This is because of her founder who said “I have come to give them life, life to the full (Jn. 10:10)
My brother priests, as we celebrate and renew our vows today on behalf of our other brothers, we joyfully recall the spirit of God by whom we have been called and anointed. We are called through an eternal covenant and to service just like the first reading states (Is.61, Lk 4:). To qualify to be called servants of God, we must serve in the mould of the one who came “to serve not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). While it is true that by grace, we are already doing this, we must allow ourselves to be drawn even closer to Jesus in the difficult events of daily life in our age and time. Perhaps a fitting hymn for this period might be: “Take me deeper in love with you Jesus … Let us not be afraid for he said to us: “My yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11;30). Indeed, my brothers we have little to fear for Emmanuel God is with us. What with the arsenal of resources we are celebrating today. God is faithful. His word is yes and Amen and great things happen when God mixes with man.
In other words, my brothers, we are called to a life of holiness in action. Pope Francis words when he recently addressed a conference sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy on the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II decrees Presbyterorum ordinis [Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests] and Optatam Totius [Decree on Priestly Training] capture it all. He said:
“We are not priests for our own sake, and our sanctification is closely linked to that of our people, our anointing to their anointing”. He said, added that priests should be “authoritative, not authoritarian; firm, but not hard; joyful, but not superficial…in short, shepherds, not functionaries.”
Pope Francis said priests must remain with their people, and not treat the priesthood “like a job one does, and afterwards live a life apart.”
“The good that priests can do comes primarily from their proximity to – and a tender love for – their people,” he said. “They are not philanthropists or functionaries, but fathers and brothers.”
Let us be encouraged! Yes there will be problems but there are great testimonies to celebrate too. O March 15 Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli, 72 died at a hospital in Lovere, Italy because he refused the ventilator bought by his parishioners so that a younger patient could use it. Without any conclave being called he is already popularly being celebrated as a saint. This very day the news as filtered out of the acquittal by Australia’s highest court of Cardinal George Pell, who had been wrongly jailed over accusations of child abuse. He spent over a year in jail. Cardinal Pell on his release said he did not want to increase the injury nd damage already done by his incarceration and let go any remorse against his accusers.
We therefore by our gesture today, wish to encourage the people of God our brothers and sisters. In the face of all adversary, refuse to be denied the opportunity to give thanks to God. It is our duty to do so in and out of season. By celebrating Chrism Mass in this manner today, and as we pray in Psalm 42, with sickness and death all around us, we declare: “I shall say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go around in mourning, harassed by the enemy?’ With death in my bones, my enemies taunt me, all day long they ask me, ‘Where is your God?’ Why so downcast, why all these sighs? Hope in God! I will praise him still, my Saviour, my God”. So, refusing to bow our heads to the trials and tribulations of the moment, we praise God still today for his gifts to the Church and celebrate our priesthood.
We also encourage our people to unite all their deprivations, restrictions and pain with that of Jesus Christ as we go through this Holy Week. Recall the traditional morning prayer where we unite all suffering with Christ’s! How so very near to us Good Friday seems now! Few things appear normal all around and we feel with Jesus Christ the pains of his people, especially through our brother priests who have had to stay with their people in the parishes and communities to help them in some way with prayers and actions to alleviate their suffering. We are wounded healers in the mode of Jesus of Nazareth who has died for us. Presbyterorum ordinis, states that priests are “taken from among men,” “ordained for men,” and “live in the midst of other men.”
Did Pope Francis not ask us as good shepherds to smell the smell of our sheep? My brothers this in itself is a visible example of who we really are priests taken from among the people to offer sacrifice for them. As other Christs we are proud to represent the good shepherd who never abandons his sheep. We do not do business as usual because the times are not normal.
To the faithful who are not privileged to attend this Mass let us priests represented by their Deans from the 5 deaneries of the Diocese rededicate ourselves to service, saying with Jesus “Father, if this chalice cannot pass over me unless I drink it, your will be done (Matt. 26:39).
As we bless the Holy Oils today, let us recommit ourselves to doing so prayerfully, dutifully and joyfully. Pope Francis also said that priests cannot afford to be sad or nervous and must create serenity. So, at this time we say to our faithful, Religious, the Men, women youth and children:. “Do not be afraid”. With them we administer to our present condition what the President of the International Catholic journalists association Signis has called the most potent antivirus. Faith and hope. St. Paul told us through the Romans: “Let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope” (Rom 5:5). May our faith and hope see us through these rough times to come back to a holier, stronger and a happier community of God’s people ready to meet our savior and Lord, Jesus Christ announced to us today in the book of Revelations. When he comes, may he judge us all with mercy. Amen. May God bless and heal us all.
CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF OYO: CHRISM MASS FOR 2020: HOMILY BY
BISHOP EMMANUEL ADETOYESE BADEJO. BISHOP OF OYO DIOCESE APRIL 7, 2020