Mass of the Chrism celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Tuesday 27 March 2018

With humble joy on this 17th occasion as Archbishop, I welcome my brother bishops, diocesan and religious priests, migrant chaplains and you, the people of God, to this Mass of the Chrism. The oils for use in the conferral of the sacraments will be blessed and the Sacred Chrism consecrated.

Each of us is anointed in baptism and again in confirmation. The special anointing with chrism for priesthood and episcopate commits us priests and bishops to be faithful witnesses of the salvation Jesus won for the world.

We remember especially the day of our ordination and we seek, by the renewal of our commitment, to give ourselves more generously to the Lord's service in bringing his people to him. We are the Lord's instruments. We priests have given ourselves to him that all of us may grow in the love, life and witness of Jesus Christ.

"For by the anointing of the Holy Spirit you made your only begotten son high priest of the new and eternal covenant, and by your wondrous designs were pleased to decree that his one priesthood should continue in the Church, for Christ not only adorns with the royal priesthood the people he has made his own, but with a brother's kindness he also chooses men to be sharers, to become sharers in his sacred ministry through the laying on of hands."
(Roman Missal, Preface of the Chrism Mass)

Today, remembering that we are a priestly people called to holiness, we recognise, acclaim and support the gifted ministerial priesthood in the Church. St Luke tells us in his Gospel, "Jesus called his disciples and chose from them twelve." (Luke 6:13-16) I know that each of us remembers our ordination day as a time of special joy when, after many years of study and hope, Jesus Christ entered into our lives in a special way. We began a new relationship with him, we became other Christs. We have a new relationship with God's people because we are taken over by Christ, that he may be present and close to all.

One of the greatest gifts of Jesus to the Church is that priests have an essential calling expressed in a diversity of ways. It is fundamental for the parish to have a priest as pastor.

We priests act in the person of Christ in celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass and administering the sacraments, we make Jesus present through our preaching and teaching of the Word of God as we "proclaim the Word in our capacity as sharer in the prophetic authority of Christ and the Church." (Pastores DaboVobis # 26) Even though a particular priest may be a poorer speaker than others, his preaching is effective because of his identity with Christ. One thing that has emerged in recent months is the love of people for their priests and recognition of their faithfulness at local level.

We have to remember however that all of these things have a sacramental character. The use of priestly gifts is not given to the priest by the community but through the bishop. Such entrustment comes from the Lord. Through the priest, who represents Christ the head, people are made aware that they, too, are a priestly people.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the diversity of the ways in which priests respond to the call of Christ, whether in parish, religious communities, special ministries or migrant chaplaincy. Because of our entrustment from the Lord we are constant in faith and rich in human gifts, nourished by the family and community of the faithful.

I encourage us not to forget the relationship between the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation in which St John Paul II said "reconciliation makes provision for a profound and unremitting need of the human heart". For us it is "a grace to restore vigour and enthusiasm to our journey to holiness and to our ministry." For our people, "God counts on our availability and fidelity to work his wonders in the human heart." Especially as this beautiful sacrament has been somewhat denigrated in public discourse, we do well to remember its sacramental and profound effects which are of the essentially higher spiritual order.

My own memories of over fifty years as a priest are filled with admiration for so many priests, past and present, who are in love with Christ and close to the people.

Fathers, I thank you for your goodness. I exhort you to live, not for yourself but for them. Enjoy the friendship of the people and draw them to God. My most fulfilling times have always been among the people to whom I have been sent.

Dear brothers and sisters, to some of us God has given an invitation to priestly service. I have found goodness, faithfulness to prayer and a genuine commitment to the welfare of parishioners, as something which shines from the priesthood, and I want to say as Archbishop that, as well as remembering the call, I am strengthened by your goodness to continue with joy and hope.

I am delighted that our seminarians are here with us, encouraging us to remember the longing for the priesthood we once knew, and the total trust in Christ which is implied in it. I urge that we remember what the Vatican Council said, "that priests ensure that the celebration of the Eucharist is the centre and culmination of the whole life of the community" (Christus Dominus #30) and in adoration, when the consecrated host is also kept in the tabernacle. These two constitute the spiritual heart of the religious and parish community.

Again in Pastores Dabo Vobis there is a wonderful invitation. "The vocation to ordained ministry is a call to holiness in the form which derives from the Sacrament of Orders. Holiness is intimacy with God, it is the imitation of Christ who was poor, chaste and humble; it is unreserved love for souls and a giving of oneself on their behalf and for their true God; it is love for the Church which is holy and want us to be holy, because this is the mission that Christ entrusted to her." (Pastores Dabo Vobis #33)

Even in older age, I am filled with enthusiasm and joy for sharing the Gospel with others. Thank you for your strenuous effort, so precious for the Church because this is the essence of the call which Jesus has given us in the priesthood.

+ Denis J Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne
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