CHRISM MASS 2018.
“Go, you are sent.” We heard those words many times last year in relation to our Synod. It is easy to connect the Synod theme to tonight’s Gospel:
“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”
Jesus knew he was sent to the poor, the captives, the blind, the downtrodden……..we are too. Our task is to work how, who, and where they are today and bring them Good News. We are all sent to continue the mission Jesus was anointed for, the mission we are all anointed for in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.
We are sent into and live in a messy world, and a messy Church. We live in messy families. Pope Francis wrote in his document on the Family “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need to constantly grow and mature in the ability to love.” A L 325 Those words seemed to give families permission to be themselves, knowing that they are not perfect and that is okay. It’s into that world, where all need to grow and mature in the ability to love, that we are all sent. We journey together, supporting and helping one another throughout life in all its ups and downs.
Almost 30 years ago, in July 1989 Cardinal Tom Williams wrote a Pastoral Letter to the diocese, it was about the 1988 Synod; He wrote – “The outcome will not be revolutionary. I have to be a realist like yourselves and accept that the most telling image of the Church is an untidy caravan struggling across the desert, not a regiment of infantry marching in perfect step across an immaculate parade ground. We are, after all, the People of God, and people are imperfect and contradictory. To know it we have only to look at ourselves.”
The world is not perfect, our Church is not perfect, families are not perfect. There are poor, captives, blind, downtrodden people everywhere, people who are struggling to live, people living without dignity and hope. ….we are anointed to take good news to them, and be good news for them.
In October 2016 there had been some devastating earthquakes in Central Italy, 159 people were killed in Amatrice. Pope Francis visited Amatrice, he visited a makeshift school, spoke with emergency and fire personnel. He wandered through parts of the city sitting with people, exchanging hugs and kisses, and just spent time with people who needed support. He said: “Since the beginning I felt that I had to come to you, simply to tell you that I am close to you, nothing else, and that I pray for you.”
He was just “being with” those people. It’s something he is good at, it’s something he wants us to do. It’s also often what Jesus did…. He was WITH people. Pope Francis has emphasized this to bishops and priests several times, “We are promoters of the dialogue of encounter, dialogue is our method.”
Pope Francis tells us that our lives, especially as priests, is to be with people, walking with them, listening to them and accompanying them. In Evangelii Gaudium (169) he wrote: ‘In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment”. The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.”
He’s encouraging us to be close to and to accompany the poor, the captives, the blind and the downtrodden. Anyone in ministry today is sent as Jesus was sent …and what did he do, he walked with people, sat and listened. We are asked and are privileged to understand, forgive, accompany and integrate those with messed up and difficult lives into the life of the Church.
Pope Francis is a Jesuit. He would have known some of the things written and said by that great Jesuit Theologian, Karl Rahner. Rahner once asked the question “Why would a modern man want to become or remain a priest today?” He then answered his own question with stunning simplicity.
He said that for him it is not the great works of the church in the service of justice and peace, the great universities and the great movements and programs. “Rather,” he said, “I still see around me living in many of my brother priests a readiness for unselfish service carried out quietly, a readiness for prayer, for abandonment to the incomprehensibility of God, for the total dedication to the following of Christ crucified.”
The Church of Wellington is blessed to have priests who continually show a readiness for unselfish service carried out quietly, a readiness for prayer, abandonment to the incomprehensibility of God, for the total dedication to the following of Christ crucified.
As your priests renew their priestly promises this evening, pray for them, pray that they will be sent with renewed enthusiasm and know these words of Pope Francis:
“What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”
What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”