Homily of Most Rev John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne at Chrism Mass in St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh on Wednesday 7th April 2004

07 Apr 2004


7 APRIL 2004




My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We gather together this evening as the Church which is in Cloyne, the lay faithful,
the religious, the priests with their Bishop, to celebrate the Mass of the Chrism.
This Mass is celebrated immediately before we enter into the “three Sacred Days”
of Holy Week during which we shall once more, in a liturgical manner, relive the
saving events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
During the course of this Mass the priests of the Diocese, together with me,
solemnly renew their priestly promises once made on their Ordination Day. Then
the Holy Oils used in ministry to God’s People are blessed and the Oil of Chrism
consecrated and consigned to the Priests of the Diocese. For this occasion our
Holy Father, Pope John Paul, has written a special letter, as he does each year,
to all the Priests of the world and I have sent a copy of that letter to each
priest of the Diocese of Cloyne.

The letter of the Pope is always a very intimate, personal sharing with each
priest and he wishes to encounter each priest at the Chrism Mass and at the
Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening. In his letter this year
he writes: “I think of you first as you gather in the cathedrals of your different
Dioceses around your respective Ordinaries for the renewal of your priestly
promises……. At dusk I see you entering the Upper Room for the beginning of
the Easter Triduum. It is precisely to that “large room upstairs” (Lk. 22:12)
that Jesus invites us to return each Holy Thursday, and it is there above all
that I most cherish meeting you, my dear brothers in the priesthood”.

These words of the Holy Father re-echo those written almost twenty-five years
ago in his first letter to Priests: “I think of you unceasingly, I pray for you,
with you I seek out the ways of spiritual union and collaboration because, by
virtue of the Sacrament of Orders, you are my brothers. Using the well-known
words of Saint Augustine I wish to say to you today: “For you I am a Bishop,
with you I am a priest” (Letter to Priests 1979)

I myself wish to use those same words as I greet you, my dear brother priests,
on this very special occasion in our priestly lives. This evening we join
together in renewing our commitment to Christ Jesus, the One and Eternal Priest.
We do that fully conscious, as the Holy Father says, that “at the Last Supper
we were born as priests”. There we were drawn into an intimacy with Christ
Jesus and as He offered that first Eucharist “we were born from the Eucharist”.
The Holy Father reminds us this year of how we are caught up in the mystery
of faith which is the Eucharist and that indeed the priesthood itself is also
a mystery of faith. “There is a particular interplay”, he says, “between the
Eucharist and the Priesthood, an interplay which goes back to the Upper Room:
these two Sacraments were born together and this destiny is indissolubly
linked until the end of the world”.

So intimate is the relationship which Christ wishes between Himself and His
priests that He enables His priest to speak in His Name, to act in His Person,
to minister using the “I” of Christ…..”I absolve you…..”. The priest can
only maintain this relationship with Jesus if he is and is seen as a truly
Eucharistic priest, “witness of Eucharistic piety and holiness of life”.
Only in this way can the Church be assured that the call of Christ from
the Last Supper to take up the challenge of the ministerial priesthood will
continue to be answered. The Holy Father writes: “More than any other
effort on behalf of vocations, our personal fidelity is indispensable.
What counts is our personal commitment to Christ, our love for the Eucharist,
our fervour in celebrating it, our devotion in adoring it and our zeal in
offering it to our brothers and sisters, especially to the sick”. May we
all, my dear brother priests, be beacons radiating the joy of priesthood
in our priestly ministry. May we be and be seen to be truly brothers to
one another bound by a fraternal bond so that others, who may hear the
call of Christ, may be encouraged to answer with generosity and enthusiasm.

The Holy Father concludes his letter to priests this year with these words:
“Dear brother priests, your particular mission in the Church requires that
you be ‘friends’ of Christ, constantly contemplating his face with docility
at the school of Mary Most Holy”. My dear people “pray for vocations, for
the perseverance of those called to the priestly life and for the sanctification
of all priests”. My dear priests, “help your communities to love even more
fully that unique “gift and mystery” which is the ministerial priesthood”.
The Holy Father ends by entrusting “each of you and your daily ministry
to Mary, Mother of Priests”. He writes: “May the Blessed Virgin obtain
for you the grace never to take for granted the mystery put in your hands.
With endless gratitude to the Lord for the amazing gift of his Body and
Blood, may you persevere faithfully in your priestly ministry”.

Let us now renew our commitment to Priestly Service knowing that the Lord
Jesus looks on us and loves us.


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