By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Turning frequently to the assembled diocesan and religious order priests who serve the diocese, Bishop Robert W. Finn issued a call for continued unity and fidelity during the annual Chrism Mass March 21.
“My brother priests, God anoints us,” Bishop Finn said in his homily. “He marks us out and strengthens us for service. Consecrated at ordination, we are reconfigured by a permanent sign and seal that makes us more like Jesus Christ.”
The Chrism Mass, held in dioceses on the Thursday before Holy Week before the priests of the diocese, is both a celebration of the bishop’s consecration of the three holy oils used in the sacraments — including Holy Orders — and a celebration of priesthood.
“While we bless and consecrate the oils, another significant part of this day is for the bishop to gather with the body of priests, the presbyterate, and to renew the solemn and irrevocable promises we made at ordination,” Bishop Finn said.
“The Lord God has anointed us,” he said. “Unworthy as we are, he has called us and made us priests for his God and Father. He gives us a share in the eternal priesthood, so that we can bring the Eucharist to his people, and so that we can preach the saving Word of God.”
This particular year is special. Not only is it the Year of Faith, proclaimed by the retiring Pope Benedict XVI, but it is also a year to welcome a new leader, Pope Francis, Bishop Finn said.
“In our human experience, a father is a teacher, a guardian and protector, one who provides as best he can — even when this means great cost to himself,” Bishop Finn said.
“The good father challenges, but quickly comforts. He listens and observes so he can know how best to give in response to the legitimate needs of his children. He seeks to know intimately, never for the sake of taking advantage, but so that he can understand how best to offer himself for the care of those who depend on him. This is the ‘Father’ that you and I are called to be,” Bishop Finn told the priests.
“In the last extraordinary days, we have been presented with a new ‘father,’ a new Holy Father Francis,” he said.
“God has given him to us as a pastor, a shepherd, even as a servant at the head of the church,” Bishop Finn said.
“We had come to know Benedict, and before him, John Paul. Now we must love a new ‘Papa,’ a new pope. As we come to recognize Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ, when we begin to see Jesus in him, when we see Francis as the one the Holy Spirit had chosen, we grow in unity as the church,” he said.
Christ must live in all his priests, Bishop Finn said.
“People, if they are to know us and love us in the way God intends, must see Jesus Christ in us,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that we are required to be perfect before people can accept us and love us as their priests,” he said. “But we must allow Christ to take us over, more and more. ‘He must increase,’ as John the Baptist said, we must decrease. The sweet odor of the priesthood of Jesus Christ perfects and transcends the human frailty that otherwise would taint and limit our human efforts.
“Come, Holy Spirit! Sanctify and renew us,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn also welcomed the deacons, consecrated religious, orders of knights and ladies, Serrans, and other lay people who joined the celebration.
“We come together in a Year of Faith,” Bishop Finn said.
“The world in which we live is weighed down by materialism and secularism,” he said. “Planted within our hearts is a share of God’s own life. God has sewn the seeds of immortality in our hearts, and so we and all people need an ever stronger witness to the supernatural.
“People want to experience that which is bigger than and more complete than themselves,” Bishop Finn said. “The Catholic Church is an extraordinary instrument for bringing this truth and light to the world. Indeed, we saw in the events of the conclave and the election of Pope Francis how focused the attention of the world was on the church. Non-Catholics, even non-Christians were watching carefully to see this mystery play out — and it did in a powerful way.
“Now the world is still watching,” Bishop Finn said. “This Holy Week in the Year of Faith, I believe, represents a new moment of evangelization, not just for Pope Francis, but for us in our diocese and parishes around the world.
“What shall we do?” Bishop Finn asked. “We must pray fervently, worship and carry out the sacred rites and holy mysteries reverently and faithfully.
“A door has been opened. Clearly God will carry the day,” Bishop Finn said. “This is the message of hope that we have the opportunity to offer the world — and right now, they are watching.”