Chrism Mass Homily of Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns, St. Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Tuesday 3 April 2012
Every year the organising committee chooses a theme for the homily at the Chrism Mass. This year they have chosen “Priesthood and Eucharist.” When you think of all that’s been spoken and written about these two areas of Christian life and worship it is obviously necessary to focus on a couple of specific elements of both for our reflection this evening.
Taking priesthood first, it is important to realise that tonight we celebrate two priesthoods, the Ministerial Priesthood and the Priesthood of the People of God. In that sense tonight is a celebration of the entire diocese.
The Ministerial Priesthood and the Priesthood of the People of God should not be seen in opposition to each other, or in competition with each other, but as complimentary and mutually enriching.
Fifty years ago Vatican 11 pointed us in this direction when it announced in its Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry “priests should, therefore occupy their position of leadership as men who do not seek the things that are their own but the things that are Jesus Christ’s.”
They should unite their efforts with those of the lay faithful and conduct themselves among them after the example of the Master, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Priests are to be sincere in their appreciation and promotion of lay people’s dignity and of the special role the laity has to play in the Church’s mission.
They should be willing to listen to lay people, give consideration to their wishes and recognise their experience and competence in the different fields of human activity. In this way they will be able to recognise along with them the signs of the times.
So, the ministerial priesthood of bishops and priests and the common priesthood of the faithful participate in the one priesthood of Christ, each in its own proper way.
The common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace through a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life lived in harmony with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The members of the common priesthood, among other things are encouraged in the words of Vatican 11 “to share their priest’s anxieties, and help them as far as possible by prayer and active work so that they may be better able to overcome difficulties and carry out their duties with greater success.”
Recently the Holy Father endorsed this understanding when he said that lay people are not just collaborators in the work of the church but co-responsible for it saying “it is necessary to improve pastoral structures in such a way that the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God in their entirety is gradually promoted, with respect for the respective roles of the consecrated life and lay people.”
Our presence here tonight is a visible desire for our diocese and our parishes to be like that. Our presence is saying we are diocese, we are family, we belong to each other, we are church. And yet it is not our church, it is the Lord’s church.
And that’s where the Eucharist, the Mystery of God’s love, comes in. We are never more church, never more Body of Christ, than when we gather at the table of the Eucharist.
This reality is summed up in the phrase ‘’ the church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the church.’’ Some years ago Karl Rahner said that what the church needed most in our time was “a theology on its knees.”
When believers gather for the Breaking of Bread you have a spectacular expression of “theology on its knees.” The very phrase we use about receiving the Eucharist is very revealing. We say we are “receiving” communion. There is such a wealth of meaning concentrated in that phrase, “communing with God, communing with each other.’’
We are receiving Christ himself but the life he shares with us draws us out of our own individualism and draws us together as church. For this reason we should always be aware of those with whom we receive communion, because the Eucharist renews our life as brothers and sisters, caring for each other and working together to build up the Kingdom.
St Augustine described what happens like this, “we receive the Body of Christ, to become the Body of Christ.’’
So, this evening from Templetown to Annacurra, from Blackwater to New Ross, we gather to celebrate priesthood and Eucharist and to be together I finish with a little quote which applies to us all, people, priests, religious, and bishops “think not of yourself as the centre – but as the one who keeps things centred – on the Lord.”
• Bishop Brennan delivered his homily on Tuesday 3 April 2012
Fr. John Carroll, Ferns (053) 9122177, 00353 (0) 87 989 8424
Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444