Chrism Mass Homily of Archbishop Michael Neary
- Archbishop Neary delivered his homily on Wednesday 4 April 2012
I welcome you all as today we celebrate the Chrism Mass here in our Cathedral. While it is a day which focuses particularly on the ministerial priesthood, nevertheless the focus must also be on the sharing of each one of us, married, single, widowed, religious, and ordained in the sharing of the mission of Jesus Christ. This is a celebration of the Sacramental life of our Archdiocese. The oils which are blessed at this Mass are used in the Church as a sign of our sharing in Christ’s mission, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus sets the scene for His Mission
In today’s Gospel scene Jesus inaugurates his mission in modern political terms this is where he launches his campaign, announces his manifesto. The response he received sets a pattern that will run throughout the Gospel. At the outset of his ministry, Jesus experiences the rejection of his own town’s people of Nazareth. We are introduced to a variety of reactions which people undergo when they are confronted with Jesus: enthusiasm and doubt, admiration and annoyance, wonder and small-mindedness. The mixed reaction is an accurate index of what is to come, and rejection is going to make predictable appearances in Jesus’ calendar of experiences.
Ministry of Acceptance and Inclusion
Not only is this scene symptomatic of Jesus’ life and ministry but it is also a reminder that God’s grace is never subject to the limitations and boundaries of any nation, Church, group or race. Those who would exclude others, thereby exclude themselves. Human beings may be instruments of God’s grace for others but we are never free to set limits on who may receive that grace. “The same fence that shuts others out, shuts yourself in”. (Bill Copeland).
The Mission of Jesus – to announce “The Hospitality of God”
In His sermon Jesus refers to “the acceptable year of the Lord”. The “acceptable year of the Lord” is the season of God’s “hospitality” to the human race, which it is Jesus’ mission to proclaim and enact. It is a time when people are simply accepted, not judged. True, it is a summons to conversion – an urgent and insistent summons to a deep and transforming conversion. But before conversion there is acceptance, welcome, a hand held out to the afflicted, the trapped and the bound. The whole mission of Jesus according to Luke has been summed up in the phrase, “the hospitality of God”.
Our Challenge to graciously invite people into the “Hospitality of God”
Whenever Jesus will exercise his ministry, the welcome, the hospitality of God prevails. The great question is, who will “accept” and who will “not”? Our challenge as ministers of hospitality of God is to invite and encourage others to accept the hospitality of Jesus and participate in it. The Eucharistic Congress that we look forward to in June and have been preparing for over the past few years provides an opportunity to experience welcome rather than exclusion.
Collaboration and cooperation in Ministry
We all have our various ministries and responsibilities. However, these responsibilities cannot be exercised independently. We are dependent on each other in ways that we support, encourage and challenge each other to become the Eucharistic people of God in the Archdiocese. All the great pastoral initiatives in the diocese bear the stamp of this collaboration.
In our ministry as priests we may be so preoccupied with the pastoral challenges of a rapidly changing culture that we find it difficult to stand back and see what is taking place. At times it may be helpful to see our ministry mirrored in a Biblical personality like Moses.
The Life of Moses.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter VII, the life of Moses is divided into three periods: Firstly, when he was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in his words and deeds”. The second period of his life begins when he witnesses an injustice, one of his country men is being wronged. Moses defends the oppressed man and avenged him by striking the Egyptian. He endeavours to apply the wisdom in which he had been trained but his venture fails and Moses was met with the rebuke “who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” Moses does a runner and became an exile in the land of Median. The third era in the life of Moses begins with the encounter with God at the burning bush. Here Moses has to listen to God, a God who has seen the ill treatment of his people and heard their cry for help. God will send him as ruler and deliver.
Identification with Moses
In many respects I believe that we can identify with Moses in each of these situations. There is a time of formation and preparation, a time when we see things from a theoretical point of view and are impressed by ideologies.
Second Phase – A time of Generosity, Failure and Frustration
The second period of Moses’ life has been described as “a time of generosity, failure and frustration”. Like Moses we are full of good ideas and want to accomplish something that is generous, worthwhile and measurable in terms of achievement. Like Moses we are animated by high ideals, love for our people. Moses was mistaken in his belief that structural change would lead to a change of minds and hearts. The courageous Moses now becomes fearful. The man who was courageous is now on the run, flees to a strange land, rejected by his own people.
Third Phase – Moses Discovers Divine Initiative
The third period of Moses life is one when he discovers the divine initiative. The life that he lived in the desert prepared him for this. Here he recognised that there is a void that only God can fill. When failure intervenes, as it did in his case, he was able to enter that attitude of expectancy and vigilance which allows God to come in. Moses no longer places his hope in himself and in his own methods or in the capacity of his people to respond.
Relating the Experience of Moses to ourselves
In our experience over the past few years we have acknowledged our failures as a Church and in ministry. Yet, like Moses we can allow all our disappointments, pain and anger rise to the surface, not suppressing anything but facing it head on. We might ask ourselves: Where am I? In what period of Moses’ life, do I find myself? What is the characteristic element of my present experience, is it joy, euphoria and enthusiasm? Or, bitterness and failure? Or resignation? Moses comes to understand that it was not so much that he was interested in God but that God was interested in him. Surely this is the fundamental principle of the good news of the Gospel of which we are ministers. It is not that we have sought God but rather God seeks us.
Moses’ moment of Liberation
It is only when Moses is freed from the bonds of his own presumption about saving the Israelites that he can become more authentic to himself and his mission.
Moses as example, ideal and paradigm for us today
Moses stands for the insecurity that is in store for all who accept a challenge of life according to the Gospel. As we have seen in our own country in recent times the culture instinctively endeavours to be well off, to enjoy things, to settle down and acquire as much as we can of all kinds of goods. The challenge of faith is felt more strongly, precisely when we are confronted by such a culture. It is a time when followers of Jesus Christ and ministers of His gospel could feel lonely, abandoned and alienated. This is the challenge of faith that is painful in such a situation. This is the challenge met by Moses and by Jesus himself which we will read about in the Passion story in the coming days.
Trusting in God and not losing heart
It is a time to trust in God and pray “Lord you brought me here; you will act”. It is a matter of opening ourselves to the unknown designs of God. It is interesting to note that while Moses was encouraging the people to remain calm, he himself was crying out to the Lord.
The Struggle of Moses
On the one hand, Moses follows the prompting of the Spirit urging him to a courageous faith; on the other he is oppressed by anxiety which at times drives him towards desperation. The Moses who, in the beginning of his inexperience thought he could do everything, had learned differently. He feels the burden of his service very much. Gradually he comes to understand how necessary it is to accept people as they are, with their restlessness, outbursts of anger and grumbling.
Leadership of Moses and Jesus and the centrality of the Cross
As priests we want to be with the people in sharing their experience of hopes and fears, joys and tribulations, faith and searching. During Holy Week we contemplate how Jesus’ involvement with the people lead him to the Cross. From this we take courage and recognise that there is no way by which we can be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ than by accepting the Cross