Posted: April 13, 2022
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor
One of the first things we try to do when developing a parish council constitution is to try to come up with a mission statement.
Many companies in the business world do this as well. The idea is to give us a clear idea of our values, our goals and the approach we will take to achieve these goals. There is always a danger that in our occupation we will get distracted by less important things and forget our most important goals. Of course, there is always the danger that a group writes a mission statement and then forgets it instead of following it.
In the Gospel you have just heard, Jesus takes the mission statement of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading and makes it his own. Jesus came to 1.) bring good news to the poor, 2.) proclaim freedom to the captives, 3.) restore sight to the blind, 4.) set the oppressed free, and 5.) proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. At this Chrism Mass, we remember that it is to this that the Spirit has specially anointed us, us priests, by virtue of our ordination.
- How are we priests to bring good news to the poor? Pope Francis talks a lot about our obligation to deliver well-prepared homilies that give people hope. A preferential concern for the poor among us and a warm welcome to all. Charitable projects to provide material and spiritual help to the needy. Eliminate barriers that prevent people from easily accessing us.
- How are we priests to proclaim freedom to the captives and leave the oppressed free? Ministry of Prisons, of course. Also, to work to free those who are enslaved by addictions of all kinds. And, of course, there are the oppressive circumstances that have forced so many to come to us as refugees and our obligation to defend their rights and offer them a warm welcome.
- How are we, priests, to restore sight to the blind? There is a lot of darkness in the world today: alternate truths that are really lies, people that are really mixed up. Light is stronger than darkness, and we have a truth to proclaim that our society desperately needs to hear. Let us therefore make this coming year a year truly acceptable to the Lord, a year in which we truly and courageously make Jesus’ mission statement our own.
In this mass, I will consecrate the chrism, which is used for the ordination of priests as well as for the sacrament of confirmation. I will bless the oil of the catechumens and the oil for the anointing of the sick. These oils are blessed and consecrated at this one Mass as a sign of our unity as one Church and will be transported from here to all parishes in our state and used throughout the coming year for the administration of the sacraments in which we all share. The sacraments in which these oils will be used are times of personal encounter with the Lord not only for our personal benefit but also for the purpose of the mission: sent to do the work of God. It is for this reason that this Chrism Mass focuses on both 1.) God’s work – to free us from the power of sin and death, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, to which we are initiated in the Sacrament of Baptism, and 2.) the consistent work of believers – empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation to bring this salvation to others, and all the more so to us priests, who have been consecrated to the Lord through ordination, hence the renewal of our promises today.
Brother priests, I want you to know how grateful I am to you. I should express it more often. I always brag about you. Unlike some other dioceses, there are no real divisions between us. It’s clear that you love and support each other and support me in my endeavors, for which I am very grateful. Not all bishops can say that.
In more than 13 years, I have never seen a priest refuse a mission. Quite the contrary. We are all in there. And so, from this Mass, after having made Jesus’ mission statement our own, I will then send you to continue “to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom to the captives and the recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim a year pleasing to the Lord.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily April 11 during the Chrism Mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Little Rock.
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