Mass of Chrism
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica Ottawa, Ontario
March 18, 2022
I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA
[Texts: Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9 [Psalm 89]; Revelation 1:5-8; Luke 4:16-21]
The opening and closing words of the Apocalypse indicate the special status of this book: it is the revelation, an uncovering of the key to Gods saving plan in history. Jesus Christ, crucified on a cross is now the Living One, the Alpha and the Omegathe beginning and endof all things.
Between the Paschal Mystery, lived out in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, and the end of time when Jesus will come in glorywhen every eye will see him, even those who pierced himGods people live their lives of faith and praise, dwelling in the period of the Church. It is a time when the people of God are to move forward in faith as they live their daily lives witnessing to the gospel and to Gods only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
In this era of the Church, we who share the apostolic tradition testified to by John, the Seer of Patmos, are offered grace and peace from God who is and who was and is to come, namely Jesus Christ&the first-born from the dead, who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood.
This is what the Church of Jesus Christ until His coming in glory offers in the sacraments, in the Eucharist primarily, but also the Sacrament of Reconciliation celebrated in its ordinary form as sacramental confession.
In confession, priests of the New Covenant minister the mystery of Gods reconciling love in the blood of Jesus, which looses people from sins committed after Baptism.
Later manuscripts of this text said that Jesus washed us from our sins, but the reading of loosed or freed us from our sins recalls better the Old Testament imagery of release, similar to the way in which the blood of the Passover lamb released the people of Israel from the curse of bondage in Egypt.
Priests minister this joyous mystery of Gods forgiving love to all who come repenting of sin. In the reconciliation room or confessional, disciples seek in their meeting with the priesta brother in the Lordan encounter with the Son of Man, the one who truly knows the human condition and offers us personal encouragement along with God's mercy.
Whenever priests reconcile sinners individuallyan extraordinarily demanding service to God's peopleboth they and the penitents experience the joy that the people of Nazareth felt when Jesus proclaimed the fulfilment among them of the prophecy of Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favour.
The truth about the importance of individual confession remains a difficult message to convey; it remains an on-going task for us priests to communicate. First of all we need to convince ourselves, then those living the consecrated life, and, finally, all the faithful.
Some peoples impression that confession is pre-Conciliar or passé needs to be overcome with patience and tenacity. Residual fears that individuals harbour from bad experiences with confessors in the past, or concerns that useless anxiety and morbid guilt will be reintroduced into people's livesall such worries need to allayed.
You know, people continue to hunger and thirst today, as they did in Isaiah's time, for a divine message of encouragement. They want the oil of gladness instead of mourning, [and] the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit (61:3). This encouragement and support the Church is equipped to given in the sacrament known by several names: as the sacrament of penance, the sacrament of confession, the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of peace.
God chooses to form those set free from sin into a kingdom, priests to our God. This is a wonderful mystery, that God makes those initiated into Christs Body by Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist into a holy people set apart to give Father, Son and Holy Spirit praise, honour and glory.
We the people of God, who share Christs priestly, prophetic and regal status, are called to witness to the world the Good News of Christs resurrection, showing how all of reality is being transformed by it. Thus all of us become leaven hidden in society and light to the world in which we live.
We rejoice that God continues to call men to serve as priests, configuring them to Christ the Head of the Church. Currently four seminarians are studying at St. Decemberines Seminary in Toronto; one of these will be ordained to the diaconate this spring and, God willing, to the priesthood next year. May God increase their numbers so that the Eucharist and Reconciliation may remain central to our lives.
In one of his last letters to priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday Pope John Paul II pointed to the role of priests in stimulating vocations to the priesthood. Your own witness counts more than anything else, he said. In your hands they see the Eucharist take place, on your face they see its mystery reflected, and in your heart they sense the summons of a great love.
The late Holy Father added that all Catholics need to pray for more vocations to the priesthood because they are God's gift. But priests themselves must cooperate by offering an example to others, particularly to children and young people already involved in parish activities, especially those who serve at the altar:
What counts is our personal commitment to Christ, our love for the Eucharist, our fervor in celebrating it, our devotion in adoring it and our zeal in offering it to our brothers and sisters, especially to the sick, he said.
Pope John Paul asked priests to show special care for altar servers, who represent a kind of garden of priestly vocations, to help them grow in their love for Jesus, to recognize him in the Eucharist and to experience the beauty of the liturgy, and ended his letter praying the world's priests would receive the grace never to take for granted the mystery put in your hands.
All of usmen and women, youth and seniors, priests and religiouswho have been blessed to know Jesus Christ are called to offer God in return our praise, wishing God dominion and power forever and ever.
To recognize Gods will to rule in the world catches us up in a paradox, as Gods ways are not our ways and yet we are called to witness to the mystery of God. The Cross of Christ that Paul speaks about in his letters is folly to uncomprehending humanity and demands a break from our present way of looking at things.
It is this alternative vision of the world manifest in the weak human figure that had to suffer many things and so enter into his glory that we are called to make present in our world. The one who had nowhere to lay his head is none other than the one whose coming will manifest the injustice done to him on the cross. The Risen Lord Jesus is the one who shows us, too, how to serve a broken and needy humanity with the same love God has shown us.
In closing, I wish to recall that this year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of French explorers to found the City of Quebec. Through the International Eucharistic Congress that will be held in June, this commemoration will touch the whole Church in Canada.
May the Eucharistic Congress rekindle the faith in the Province of Quebec and in all of Canadas local churches, including our own beloved Church of Ottawa, which issued from the zeal of the missionaries, holy women and Blessed Francois de Laval, appointed first bishop of Canada three hundred and fifty years ago.
The origins of the Church in Quebec, as with the earlier foundations in lAcadie, symbolize the coming of the Catholic faith and the evangelization of the Native peoples.
May the activities leading up to and following upon the Eucharistic Congress encourage us to renew our faith and stimulate us to new initiatives to draw back to active expression of the faith those who have let their commitment become marginal or unexpressed in their lives.
Let us help them to begin again from Christ. In this way, we will fulfil the challenge of the paschal mystery, to proclaim always and everywhere that Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour remains for all time the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J.