Chrism Mass Homily, Cathedral of the Risen Christ, Lincoln
Father Leo Kosch
March 26, 2018
My name is Father Leo Kosch, the pastor of Sacred Heart Church and School here in Lincoln.
It is the custom for the youngest member of the 25-year class to give this homily. Now, Father Ron Homes, my classmate, may seem younger than me, and he may act younger than me, but he is in fact seven years older. So it is my privilege to give the homily today.
Today I greet you, the baptized People of God, the baptized members of Jesus’s Mystical Body. This includes those men and women here who have deepened their baptismal vows by entering the consecrated life. And I greet you who live out your baptism as married people, or in the single life.
And finally, I address all the priests here: first, Bishop Conley, who is entrusted with the fullness of ministry, as well as Bishops Bruskewitz and Finn, and finally my brother priests and deacons.
Yes, I used that order on purpose.
When we gather for the Chrism Mass, we are celebrating the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between God and man, between God and the human race. He gave his life for us on the Cross, as we are celebrating on Good Friday, and now he is risen and he lives forever.
Jesus is the anointed one who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, and to make us truly free.
So, it is Jesus who presides at this Holy Mass. All glory be to Him!
Jesus our priest, shares his life with us at our baptism. It is the most important day of our lives. When St. John Paul II visited his hometown of Wadowice in Poland in 1979, he visited the church where he grew up and went straight to the baptismal font in the chapel on the left side of the church, and he kissed the baptismal font. He said, “In this font I was given the grace to become a son of God, together with faith in my Redeemer, and I was welcomed into the community of the church.”
Our baptism into Christ, and the life that flows from it, is the most important event of our lives. It is our common bond on which everything else is built.
So, why are we priests all sitting up here, set apart? For one reason only: to serve your faith.
When I teach about Holy Orders, such as in RCIA class, I often quote St. Augustine, the great Bishop from North Africa and Church Father, who died in 420 AD. His quote has been summarized in this way: “With you I am a Christian; for you I am a Bishop.”
The actual quotation is found in the Office of Readings on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time. St. Augustine said, “I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the Lord has given me … a role based on the Lord’s greatness rather than my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian, the second that I am a leader. I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake… for your advantage.”
With you, we priests, deacons and bishops are Christian disciples. With you, we need to pray and to keep converting, and to go to Confession to a priest, and to struggle with worries and difficulties; and sometimes we make mistakes. But we also rejoice with you over God’s goodness and all the blessings of life. For we are your brothers, your friends, your fellow Catholic Christians. With you we are Christians.
But, for you, we have been ordained. For you, we have received a gift of ministry that conforms us to Christ. This ministry is not for ourselves but for you. St. Augustine goes on to remind us about this for almost two weeks every year, around the end of September. (After two weeks, we get it!) The shepherd is not to serve himself, but the sheep. He must not use their goods or their praise for himself. As a shepherd, he may even need to tell them difficult truths for their own good. He must serve the sheep.
So, we priests have received a charism of service given by the Holy Spirit. At the liturgy, we say, “The Lord be with you.” And you reply, “And with your spirit,” because you are acknowledging the spiritual gift we have received for your sake.
That’s why you honor your priest, despite his imperfections, because you want to help him to give and use the spiritual gifts he has received—as you also give and use your gifts to build up the Body of Christ.
This gift is why our seminarians spend all those years in formation and study. Yes, it is so that they can grow themselves, because they cannot give what they do not have. But essentially they are becoming open to a gift from Christ that they will receive, in order to give it away.
We are all in this together. We are saved by Jesus, through our baptism.
But today and on Holy Thursday we recall how Jesus gave the further gift of his ministry to the apostles and now to the bishops, who share this priesthood of ministry with us. And we priests build up the Body of Christ by praying and by teaching you to pray, by proclaiming God’s word, by offering the Holy Mass and the other sacraments, and by giving our fatherly guidance.
As part of this celebration today, we priests will renew our promises to serve you well. Also as part of this celebration, the Bishop will bless the oils that are used in the Sacraments: the Chrism, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Oil of the Sick.
So, rejoice O people of God, O members of the Mystical Body of Christ! Rejoice in the gifts and charisms and graces we all receive at baptism, to be lived and to be given away.
Today, we put aside all clericalism or anti-clericalism, and we rejoice in the gift of the ministerial priesthood. We ordained priests are your brothers, and Christ has given us—undeserving men that we are—the gifts of ministry, to give away to you.
With you, I am a Christian.
For you, I am a priest.