Chrism Mass Homily – April 2017

Chrism Mass Homily of Bishop John Noonan
April 12, 2017

I welcome you to St. James Cathedral this evening as we celebrate the Chrism Mass where we bless the oils which our priests will use in their sacred ministry.  These oils when blest will be used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Priestly Ordination and the Anointing of the Sick.  Priests come together at the Chrism Mass to renew their commitment to their priestly ministry of service to God and you the people.  It is only right and fitting that you should honor your priests with your presence and prayers.

Tonight we honor all priests; but in a special way we honor our Jubiliarians celebrating 50 years and 25 years of priestly ministry.  We honor those celebrating 50 years of priestly ministry:

  • John Durkin, retired of the Archdiocese of New York and helps out at St. John the Evangelist in Viera.
  • Sean Heslin, retired of the Diocese of Orlando and living at Church of Our Savior parish in Cocoa Beach.
  • Thomas Shea, a Holy Cross priest, ministering to our Hispanic brothers and sisters at a number of parishes in Brevard.
  • Raymond Zeugner, retired of the Diocese of Marquette, ministering in Polk County at a number of parishes.

We honor those celebrating 25 years of priestly ministry:

  • Steve Baumann of the Diocese of Orlando serving at Annunciation Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs.
  • Ronald Oser, retired of the Diocese of Orlando assisting at parishes in Ocala.
  • Bassam Saade, Pastor of Maronite Community of St. Jude from Lebanon.
  • Binh Tran, born in Vietnam and from the Diocese of Peoria, now a Parochial Vicar at Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne.

These are the Jubilarians for the year 2017 whom we honor tonight.

Recently I heard a bishop say that he had his seminarians watch the movie, the Exorcist, as an example of priesthood.  I began to reflect what movies I would consider an example of priesthood.  The priesthood has been portrayed in many different ways over the years in movies.  Some of you will remember The Bells of St. Mary’s with Bing Crosby; On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden; or Diary of a Country Priest and Keys of the Kingdom with Gregory Peck.

These may be too nostalgic for some  ̶  for others they were part of their inspiration to become a priest.  Today movies portray priesthood in a far different light.  The movie, Of God and Men, Calvary, and the latest movie by Martin Scorsese, Silence, may leave us with more questions than answers about the priesthood.  But, are movies our only source of inspiration for the priesthood?  Are movies our only source of a true meaning of priesthood?  I only have to look to you within the walls of this Cathedral tonight to see that priesthood has a deeper sense and meaning and it is found in Scripture.

Tonight we hear St. Luke’s Gospel proclaimed, “the spirit of the Lord is upon you.”  You, because God has anointed you, to bring glad tidings to the poor. To proclaim liberty to captives recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

You shall be named a priest of the Lord . . . you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus in the Gospel speaks these words to the people of Nazareth as He reads from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  When finished He rolled up the scroll and quietly sat down.  The eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at Jesus; what would He say? Jesus responded, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

My brother priests, this Scripture passage is being fulfilled in you.  On the day of your Ordination, you were anointed, the Spirit of the Lord came upon you.  You were chosen and sent out; not as workers or employees, but priests of Jesus Christ.  Saint Pope John Paul II said, “The priesthood is an act of love for the People of God, at whose service the priest is placed.”  Service is at the heart of your priestly lives; it means knowing, loving, teaching and praying with and for your people.

Pope Francis says it best, “you are to smell like your sheep.”  You are to gather the people, accompany them, protect and care for their spiritual and physical needs.  You are called to be good shepherds to have the heart and spirit of Christ.  You may be called to be a sign of contradiction to a world that does not know or believe in Jesus Christ.  To bring glad tidings to lowly, heal the broken hearted, and bring liberty to captives may be very difficult and demanding of your strength and courage.  St. Paul reminds us too, “It is not I but Christ who works through me.”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.”  Some may ask, “But, what has been fulfilled in our midst?  Look at the life of every priest in your parishes and his relationship with you, his people.  Priests have been anointed and consecrated to bring Christ in Word and Sacrament into the lives of the people.  The priests bring, “glad tidings” to the lowly visiting the sick at home, in hospitals and nursing homes.  Father Bill Gohring ministers to the sick as a hospital chaplain each day.  The priests anoint the sick and the dying with the oil of gladness allowing them to experience the consolation and the love of the Lord.  The priests bring the healing mercy of God to those who seek His forgiveness.  The priests welcome new life into the Church at the celebration of baptism with prayers, anointing and blessings.  The priests consecrate the newlyweds in the Sacrament of Marriage with God’s gift of abiding Love.  The priests console you like Jesus as He came to console Martha and Mary in their sorrow with His presence and the Word of God.

In Matthew 25, Jesus reminds his disciples, “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least of mine, you did for me.”  This is a gentle reminder to you priests that what you do every day are not just ordinary things.  You are touching Christ.  The best reflection of your priesthood is that you bring Christ with you wherever you go and whatever you do.  The priest is called to be aware of the pastoral needs of the people.  He is called to visit the sick, the home bound and those in prison.  Ministry to the incarcerated can be very challenging and even intimidating.  Father Leo Hodges is one of the priests who leads this ministry in our diocese with help from deacons and you, the people of God. Fr. Phil Egitto organizes pilgrimages to Rayford Prison to pray for those sentenced to death and their victims.  Fathers Gianni, Alfredo, Luis Osorio and David Vargas, along with some of our religious sisters, and you help care for our migrant and farmworkers, especially during these uncertain times.

Sister Bernie Mackay and so many of you have been another source of outreach to our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana as you offer attention to them in the areas of medicine, technology and education.  Father Karl Bergin recently returned from a mission trip to the mountain area in the Dominican Republic to minister to and be ministered from these holy people.  I thank Father Robert Susann who leads our airport ministry at Orlando International Airport and the priests of the Basilica of Mary Queen of the Universe under Monsignor Harte’s legacy.  These are just a few of the examples of our diocesan community embracing St. Matthew’s Gospel message.

On Good Friday, we hear proclaimed the agony of Jesus in the garden, in His hour of greatest need.  He finds his disciples asleep.  The priests of our diocese, our deacons and religious and many of our lay people were not asleep on the night of June 12, nor the many days and nights which followed as you tirelessly ministered to the victims and their families, consoling them and burying their dead with dignity and love.  You were there in the hours of greatest need of the people and you responded with the mercy of God.

Each year I reflect on the gift of priesthood.  I am forever grateful to you, the priests of the Diocese of Orlando, our religious men and women, and you, the people of God for your dedicated service to enliven His Word throughout the earth.