Given at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.
I'm so glad that you all decided to come here today instead of getting your gardens ready for the spring planting. It's a wonderful blessing that we can all be here at the Cathedral today, which is really the home church for all of us as members of the archdiocese. This is one of the best days of my liturgical year and I'm very glad to share it with all of you. I know that for a number of those who are on the path toward confirmation whether it might be by the ordinary catechesis of adolescence or some of you are elect, you're most welcome here at the liturgy where the chrism will be consecrated. Also, I want to offer a particular word of thanks and appreciation for all the catechists who are here. Your ministry, your service is intimately related especially to the oil of the catechumens and to the sacred chrism. And certainly, I'm so very pleased to have so many of my brother deacons and priests here, and especially we bishops are so glad, all of us are glad, to have Cardinal Maida back in our midst. You're most welcome here, your eminence. Thanks for coming home today.
There is a folk saying which has some truth: "Oil and water don't mix." But the liturgy gives the lie to that, and that's my corny figure of speech by which I hope I will offer a way to remember the reflection I have to offer.
As I read the text for the consecration of the sacred chrism, it clearly says that oil and water belong together. And I'd like to make a reflection on what the liturgy says that contradiction of the folk wisdom, the way I move forward in my preaching. All of the sacraments are tied intimately to the mysteries of our Lord's own life. They provide both a precedent, a kind of a shape, a figure, for the sacraments, the Gospel mysteries do. And the sacraments, in fact, continue what is narrated in the Gospel. What we hear recounted happens by the power of the Holy Spirit in the seven sacraments Jesus has given us.
So, for example, at the anointing of the sick, the liturgy clearly explains that what the priest does in anointing the sick is a continuation of the Lord's ministry of healing and care for those who are ill. We understand especially on this day that holy orders, the consecration of men to be priests, is a continuation of what our Lord did at the Last Supper.
Today, in the liturgy, the Church through the prayer of consecrating the chrism, points out that what Jesus experienced at the Jordan when he was baptized by John, is continued through the sacred chrism. The consecration prayer says very clearly, that after Jesus came out of the water, he was then anointed with the descent of the Holy Spirit, by which he was confirmed for the world in his sonship. After washing, there was anointing. And in our life in the liturgy through the sacraments, after the washing of baptism, there is always the anointing with the sacred chrism.
And the consecration prayer says that this was not a complete innovation in the New Testament in the New Covenant. It was foreshadowed already in the flood. Where the world was, by the flood, washed clean of sin, it was through the olive branch brought back by the dove that it was made plain to Noah that God had accomplished this great deed, this saving deed.
And the liturgy also then points to Aaron, how after Aaron and his sons were washed by Moses, they then were anointed with the holy oil.
At this point you are asking yourself: "Well where's he going with this, and will there be an examination?" No, but my point is that what the liturgy says about the matter for confirmation gives us insight about the sacrament in which the sacred chrism is principally used. If we think about the chrism, we know more about confirmation. Like Christ our head, after our baptism, we too are chrismated, we are confirmed in our being adopted as sons and daughters of the Father through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And so, truly, through baptism what Jesus is by nature, we are by favor, by grace, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. And in more particular focus, that sonship of Jesus in the flesh was for the sake of mission. That's very clear in today's Gospel. When Jesus uses the prophet Isaiah for his preaching, he says that it is about his being anointed so that he was sent. It was for a purpose. It was to announce the Good News to the poor and all those who mourn and need a word from God.
When we in confirmation are confirmed - truth in advertising, right - and we in confirmation are confirmed in our sonship, it is precisely being confirmed in a mission. As the second reading says, we are a kingdom of priests. That is, we are made through confirmation, instruments for building up the kingdom of the Father so that we might offer this world to the Father in sacrifice.
This is our mission. We say very routinely that confirmation is about full initiation. And sometimes that can become a bit trivial. I'm not opposed to people who are confirmed immediately becoming greeters at church, that's a good thing. But it's too little. We are fully initiated into the church so that we can take up the church's mission. This is why we are confirmed, chrismated, anointed with the Holy Spirit.
In the church there are no bystanders. Nobody is on the bench. Nobody belongs to the second string. We are all called to share the Good News, because we share the spirit of Christ and in that spirit He was sent to bring Good News and in that spirit, how are we not also sent to share this Good News to announce the year of favor?
Of course, I am particularly focusing on this effect of our anointing and confirmation because we are engaged in our effort to Unleash the Gospel. It's in light of Synod 16 that I particularly raise up this reflection, this liturgical teaching today. We have been praying for a New Pentecost, for years now. That was the prayer, is for a New Pentecost, give us an outpouring of the Spirit.
Today, I affirm that God is answering this prayer. He is answering it especially sacramentally, mystically, through confirmation. Gonna get corny again. Chrism is the New Pentecost in a bottle. By chrism, in the sacrament of confirmation, we have the gifts we need to be this band of missionary disciples. The Holy Spirit is given to us, shared with us, by the Messiah so that we too can do our part and continue His mission. Let us not only affirm this, believe it, let us teach and preach and live it.
And if I might then offer a kind of excursus to my brother priests: Let us for a moment reflect on how this same chrism which anoints the heads of all believers has anointed our hands. Hands are the tool of tools. They're the instrument by which work is accomplished. Think about it. It's pretty hard to manage a shovel with your teeth. Tools are made for hands, and it is our hands which are anointed with this sacred chrism, because we are about being instruments by which the whole people of God are able to perform their mission, their service, their work of evangelization.
So then, let us be about this sacred liturgy. Let us remember that the power of the chrism comes from the passover of Jesus. The chrism makes present the Holy Spirit because it has come forth from the body of Christ as he expired on the Cross. And let us, as we offer the prayer of the sacred liturgy today, be about thanksgiving. And as the Venerable Solanus says: "Ahead of time." Let us thank God for all those, who because they will be anointed with this sacred chrism, will accomplish the New Evangelization and Unleash the Gospel here in our community.
We adore Thee, O Christ and we praise Thee. Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.