In his homily for the first Chrism Mass of his pontificate, Pope Francis reflected on the image of anointing and the priesthood. The Holy Father began his homily by greeting the priests who were present at the Mass, which he said, “recalls the day of your ordination.”
The readings, he said, focused on God’s anointed ones: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus Christ. Pope Francis stated that the anointing of all three is meant “in turn to anoint God’s faithful people”, meaning, the poor, prisoners, and the oppressed.
The Holy Father went on to contemplate on the symbolism of the image of the High Priest Aaron, mentioned in Psalm 133 which says, “it is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe.”
“The image of spreading oil,” the Pope said, “flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.”
“From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to the edges.”
‘The Oil of Gladness’
Contemplating on the priestly ministry, the Holy Father stated that “a good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed.” Pope Francis went on to say that a clear test of a good priest is when the faithful are anointed with “the oil of gladness” upon receiving the good news of the Gospel.
“Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with unction, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the outskirts where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith,” the Pope said.
“People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes.”
The 76 year old Pontiff went on to say that when priests establish this relationship between God and the faithful, priests in turn become “mediators between God and men.
“We need to go out, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters,” Pope Francis said.
“It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the lay faithful to support priests with both affections and prayer. Directing his words to the priests, the Holy Father called upon God to “renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed.”
“May our people,” he concluded, “sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us.”
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