Proclaimed at the Chrism Mass, April 3, 2012
by Archbishop Thomas Wenski


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Chrism Mass Homily preached by Archbishop Thomas Wenski
April 3, 2012

The spirit of the Lord God is upon us! For he has anointed us!

The Chrism Mass celebrated by a bishop and his presbyterium, his college of priests, is very significant in its meaning and pastoral importance in the life of a diocese. Together we will consecrate the Sacred Chrism and bless the Holy Oils. Together we will offer the Most Holy Sacrifice in this liturgy that takes us back to the Upper Room where the First Mass was celebrated and our priesthood was instituted.

This Mass is a special sign of the unity of our priesthood and witnesses that we bishop and priests share a common ministry to teach, to govern and to sanctify the people of God. For these reasons, I deemed it an opportune occasion for me as the fourth bishop of this local Church to solemnly convoke our second archdiocesan synod.

The years ahead will bring new opportunities and challenges. For me, this underscores our urgent need for prayerful consideration of our call to conversion and holiness, and our need to forge a common vision and plan for the Archdiocese of Miami in its many expressions throughout South Florida our parishes, our schools, Catholic Charities and the many other organizations that bear witness to our life changing work.

Through the synod process, all the Catholic people of the Archdiocese of Miami, its priests, its deacons, its religious and its laity, will have the opportunity to recommend to me as your shepherd a course of action so that together as Disciples in Faith and Missionaries of Hope we might meet the challenges of a new evangelization in this local Church.

If the Gospel of Christ is to be seen and heard in a world that pays less and less attention to the deep questions about God, about the meaning of life, and faith, it will have to be seen and heard in the lives of believers, that in those of us who claim to be Christs disciples and missionaries. The "New Evangelization," a theme to be taken up later this year in Rome by the Synod of Bishops, calls us to reignite the faith among those who though baptized seemed to be tired in the faith and therefore only adhere to it half heartedly. The new evangelization calls us to recognize that being a Christian is not a burden but a gift; the new evangelization calls us to recognize that having encountered the Lord is the best thing that has ever happened to us and to share him with others in a joy. "The new evangelization must become a new Upper Room, a place where, beneath the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Church will not find a new Gospel but rather a new response to the needs of humanity and people today in a manner adapted to the signs of the times and to the new situations in cultures, which are the basis of our personal identity and the places where we seek the meaning of our existence" (Lineamenta 23).

Thus, our Synod, with God's help and your active collaboration, can be for all of us the beginning of an exciting work of pastoral revitalization. If we are to lead others to faith we must also grow in that faith ourselves. Pope Benedict continually reminds us that our Catholic faith is not about an idea but a person. We are called not to announce an idea but to be witnesses to a person, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, was buried and now has risen from the dead. We will only be witnesses if we ourselves are committed disciples and coherent missionaries. Then, evangelization, preaching the Gospel, means simply sharing what we have experienced in the lived intimacy of our communion with Christ.

While this is only the second synod in the relatively young history of our diocese, synods are as old as the Church herself and throughout her history, synods have been used by bishops in their role as shepherds to seek counsel from their immediate collaborators, the priests, and from the People of God themselves, to assist them as they teach, rule and sanctify the local Churches entrusted to their care.

In 1790, the first American bishop, John Carroll, summoned his clergy to a diocesan canonical synod at St. Peters pro-cathedral in Baltimore. He and 22 priests met the following year. At that time, among the topics discussed were: the danger of mixed marriages to the faith of young Catholics; Easter duty - the obligation of all Catholics to go to confession and receive Holy Communion during the Easter season; the proper disposition of parish funds; priestly vocations and the religious education of children.

These themes would be addressed time and time again at similar gatherings over the next two centuries. And these same themes or variations of them still will concern us today. The purpose of our Synod here in Miami will be to examine what we must do as a community of faith. We have to translate into pastoral initiatives or goals, adapted to our circumstances, "the plan found in the Gospel and the living tradition to make Christ known, loved and imitated so that in Him we may live the life of the Trinity and with Him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem." (Novo Millennio Ineunte). With our faith and the hope it brings, we will be able to face the challenges of the present with enthusiasm and to prepare for the challenges of the future with confidence and hope.

Like the bishops who have gone before me whose contributions to the life of this local Church I gratefully acknowledge, I also must turn to people like you to seek your counsel, your collaboration and your support. Together we must devote our best efforts to proclaim the Gospel more compellingly, to foster the growth in holiness of our people more coherently, and to transmit the treasure of our faith to the younger generation more effectively.

The Synod is a process and an instrument to assist me in my task of pastoral governance. It will be specifically designed to help me and the priests of this diocese understand the needs of those whom we serve. We will listen to the needs of the faithful, and at the same time, we will be prepared to act on those needs.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon us! For he has anointed us!

Jesus chooses this text of Isaiah we have just heard for his first sermon. This is no coincidence - with Jesus, nothing is improvised. Isaiah is the great prophet of the Messiah. He speaks of the Virgin who will conceive a Son, Emmanuel, "God with us." Isaiah also describes for us the suffering servant. In today's passage, Isaiah speaks of the servant who is anointed the Messiah - the Christ -by the Spirit. He goes on to describe Christ's mission to announce Good News to the poor, restore sight to the blind, to free the captive and the oppressed, to declare a Jubilee. It is as though Isaiah has written a job description for Jesus. That Luke puts this Isaian passage at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry is the interpretive key to understanding all that would follow in the Gospel. He unveils for us the identity of Jesus and as "Christened people," the more we understand Jesus' identity, the more we will understand our own.

The Chrism Mass itself also offers the priests of a local Church as they gather around their bishop the opportunity to renew our priestly commitments. In saying once again, "I do," we commit ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit, "to understand what we do, to imitate what we celebrate, to conform our lives to the mystery of the Lord's Cross" and in this way to put ourselves yet again at the service of his love so that Christ will be known, loved and imitated. Today, we do so in the presence of two deacons. In June, God willing, they will join the ranks of this presbyterate when they are ordained priests. Also before us are several of our more senior brothers who celebrate milestone anniversaries in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. It is an impressive list: Monsignors Emilio Martín, Pedro Luis Pérez, and Emilio Vallina,and Fathers José García, José Paz and Leonard Puisis are celebrating 60 years of priestly ordinations. Fathers Sean Mulcahy, Ignacio Blasco, José Luis Paniagua, José Luis Hernando, Charles Clements, Jairo Tellez, Real Nadeau, Gerard Hafner, Paul Bolton, Juan Lopez, Yves Jocelyn and Monsignor Jim Suchocki this year celebrate the golden jubilee of their priestly ordinations. For fifty years, they have labored in the Lord's vineyard; they have endured the heat of the day. Also, we have an impressive list of those celebrating their silver jubilees: Fathers Tom Honold, John Cox, Alberto Rodriguez, Bob Vallee, Klemens Dabrowski, and Monsignor Oscar Castañeda. All these men have served - and they have served well - as priests through times of great change and turmoil.

Such times of change and turmoil make many people afraid - and indeed one of the marks of our times is that fear. So many people today fear any permanent commitments - and this is true not only in regards to a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life but also in regards to the vocation to marriage and family life. Yet in spite of their fears, people still want to see witnesses persons of faith and communion.

Today we thank you, jubilarians and transitional deacons, for your witness and for your courage. You inspire all of us priests to recommit ourselves to priestly service for the glory of God and the good of his people. That courage, manifested in the enthusiasm of youth, and that courage, distilled through the wisdom of age and experience, inspire us not to be afraid as we seek to be "disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in Him."

Today, all priests feel a special stirring in our hearts as we recall the events that transpired in that Upper Room on the eve of Christ's Passion. Like Peter when Jesus drew near him to wash his feet, we can protest our unworthiness. And, if we don't, you, God's holy people, will. You will no doubt remind us of our unworthiness. And this is perhaps fitting for our gift - the gift of priesthood - is not given to us for our sakes but for yours.

Please do remember our unworthiness - not to throw in our faces, for most of us, most of the time, are acutely aware of it. But remember our unworthiness, and so pray for us. Pray for your priests. All of you want and need good and faithful priests. You must never tire of asking God on your behalf and on ours. Pray that we be the priests you need, the priests you deserve. Pray that you will never lack for such priests.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon us! For he has anointed us!

Together, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and members of Christ's faithful, together we must continue to respond to the universal vocation to holiness as disciples in faith and missionaries of hope.

Click here to read Archbishop Wenski's Invitation Letter to the Listening Sessions

Click here for the schedule of the Listening sessions...