HOMILY FOR 2021 CHRISM MASS BY BISHOP FRANCIS ADESINA

“ANOINTING FOR THE MISSION OF CHRIST”

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;

He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken-hearted;

To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners;

To announce a year of favour from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God;

To comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion, a diadem instead of ashes; To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit” (Isaiah 61,1-3)

With these insightful words of Prophet Isaiah, which is fulfilled in the ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I welcome you my brother-Priests, Consecrated Women, and dearly beloved People of God to the Eucharistic celebration of the Holy Chrism and Cathedraticum for 2021.

We bless the Lord the Most High, that in spite of the current heightened waves of insecurity, poverty, ethnic tensions, threats of succession, industrial strike actions, untimely and ill-conceived increase of the pump price of petroleum in our country, Nigeria, we have reasons to be grateful to God for his mercy, love and protection, because we are God’s children, we are people of Hope.

This time last year, you would recall that the Holy Week Celebrations were low key celebrations. We were deprived of the joyful congregational celebrations in this cathedral and in other churches, because of the restrictions put in place against the spread of Coronavirus. Thanks be to God, we are overcoming the pandemic gradually and we are able to safely return to congregational worship. My dear people of God, let us continue to keep safe at home, at work and in the public. Let us continue to following the prescribed protocols for Covid-19. May the passion of the Lord heal our land and people from every kind of infirmity. Amen.

Today, as God’s faithful people in Ijebu-Ode Diocese, we gather to celebrate the gift of the sacred Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist in the Church. We gather to pray with and for all the priests, members of the presbyterial Council in our diocese – those those who are here with me on this sanctuary, from the oldest to the youngest. We pray for those who are on mission and for those on studies. We must not forget to pray for our Emeritus Bishop, Albert FASINA, for those priests who may be experiencing crisis of faith and vocation and for our deceased priests.

The priestly vocation is a great, precious and powerful gift of God. Priests are called, unworthy as they are, to act on God’s behalf and on behalf of the Christian community; and for this precious and unique gift of God, we gather today in thanksgiving. May the Lord accept our thanks and worship. Amen.

The first and the Gospel readings chosen for this Mass beautifully capture the Mission God assigned to Isaiah and to Jesus Christ at different times in human history. Prophet Isaiah in the 1st reading was sent to those who have returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon.

Many years later, Jesus Christ took these same words of prophet Isaiah to declare his own mission in the world beginning with the Jews listening to him in the synagogue of Nazareth. Jesus must have felt that his own people were like prisoners in their own native land under the Roman forces in control.

In the days of Prophet Isaiah and in the time of Jesus’ ministry, there were the “poor”, the “captives”, the “broken-hearted”, the “bereaved”, the “despondent”, “the marginalized”, and the aggrieved”. These classifications of people do not only sound familiar to us, they actually describe the situation and experiences of people in our country Nigeria today; and perhaps, these words also may describe the feelings of some people in the Church too.

Like those returning from the Babylonia exile and those held captives in their own Land, the Word of God is addressed to us today in this Mass of Chrism that each one of us – Priests, Religious and Laity – we all need a new anointing from Jesus; a new anointing from the Lamb of God sacrificed on the Cross for our Salvation, an anointing that gives us “new courage and creativity”, “new faith and resilience”, a “new hope and joy” that no one, no situation of life could take away from us. This is what Jesus proclaimed when he said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing!” And I would to hear you say a very laud “AMEN” as l repeat those powerful word of Jesus Christ: Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing!” Amen.

The celebration of the Chrism Mass today in our Diocese has three unique elements, namely:

+The blessing and consecration of the Holy Oils;

  • The renewal of ordination promises by our priests and
  • The offering of Cathedriaticum gifts to the Bishop.

The first component of the Mass of Chrism is the oils that will be consecrated. These oils will replace that of last year, and they will be used, exclusively, in the celebration of the Sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick and priestly and episcopal ordination. Each of these sacraments points in its own unique way to the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, the great sacrament of our communion. When the sacraments are celebrated within the context of the Holy Eucharist, the faith and unity of the Christian community is strengthened and renewed just as we are doing right now.

Three different oils will be blessed in this Mass:

The oil of catechumens, which we will soon be brought forward and blessed, will be used in baptism to remind us of the power and strength, which comes to us from the grace of God.

The oil of Chrism, symbolizes our profound union with Christ whose death and rising to new life we share by sacred anointing.

The oil of the sick we bless today, becomes a sign of the strength we receive from God and the Christian community in times of physical illness. It prepares us, if it is time, for the final journey of returning to God in peace.

The oil of Chrism is very special. It is used at baptism, is used again at confirmation to symbolise the gift of the Holy Spirit who comes to us in a new and powerful way to strengthen us for the challenge of living our Christian lives to the full.

Both at baptism and confirmation, the Holy Chrism anoints us to share in the Priesthood of Christ, the Priesthood that is fully accomplished on the Cross in a sacrificial act of total self-giving to his Father for our sake. In this way, all of us who are baptized are called to make our lives a sacrificial gift for others.

This is what it means to have a share in the priesthood of Christ. This is what makes all of us, together, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special possession that St. Peter acclaim in 1 Peter 2,9. By the merit of today’s Eucharistic celebration, may each one of us come to realize and experience the meaning of the priesthood of Christ that we share in. Amen.

The second element in today’s Mass is the renewing of the solemn promises made by our priests at their ordination. As ordained priests we were all consecrated with the Oil of Chrism and we are sent to live among the people of God we serve.

We are conscious that the Lord places us at the heart of our communities not because we are better, or holier, or more worthy than our brothers and sisters. Not at all! The Lord, in the mystery of his own divine plan, has chosen us to be the living signs that HE has not deserted his people, that HE continues to lead his flock, to feed them, to forgive them, to encourage them, to serve them and to strengthen them through the actions of his ordained priests.

We, Priests, are privileged instruments in the hands of God. That is why none of us must consider the Priesthood as his own property. We are not masters but servants of the Christian Community we are sent.

At our priestly ordination, each of us said a loud “yes” to the Lord in the public. But at times in our hearts, there can be a hidden “no”, an inner resistance to the Word of God we preach, and to the Sacraments we celebrate. It is possible that inside us, there could be a resentment building up when demands of our ministry are made of us, and there is little or no appreciation for our efforts.

My dear brothers in the Priesthood, whenever this happen to us, whenever our ministry begins to feel like a burden, let return to serious prayer. It is only prayer that can break the grips of negativity in our hearts, in whatever form it exists. It is in our fidelity to prayer that we surrender to the Cross that dangerous, hidden “resistance” to Holiness that lies within each one of us.

Prayer is critically important for who we are and what we do as priests. A priest who avoids praying is powerless and dangerous to the Christian community. It is a lot easier for the Devil to trap Bishops, Priests, Religious and Laity in a vicious circle of negativity, materialism marked by sin, doubt, anxiety and hopelessness – all because of our lack or loss of prayer life. It is my prayer for you, my brother-Priests and for myself, that St. Michael the Archangel, St. Joseph protector of the Universal Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Clergy, intercede for and protect our Priests and Religious in their Holy Vocations. Amen.

On a day like this, it is important that we, priests, admit publicly that like everyone else, we are in need of hope, joy and love of Christ, just as those to whom we have the privilege to minister. That is why at this Chrism Mass, I would like to express my profoundest gratitude and that of Baba FASINA, our emeritus Bishop, to the people of God in Ijebu-Ode Diocese, to our faithful and hardworking parishioners, to our friends and families, to our beloved Priests and Religious, to our youth and children – To all of you present here with us in the Cathedral today – All of who offer us consolation, loving support and understanding in our ministry; all of you who stand by us in trials, all those who stay close to us in adversity, and all those who through their forgiveness, solidarity and prayer sustain our priestly and Religious vocations. May the Lord reward each and everyone of you a hundred fold in this life and the next. Amen.

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