Thirsting for Christ

Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for the Chrism Mass.

April 15, 2019

“You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God you shall be called. (Is 61:1ff)”

“Ustedes seran llamados ‘sacerdotes del Senor’; ministros de nuestro Dios’ se les llamara’.”  (Is 61:1ff)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in this 50th anniversary year of the Diocese of Phoenix, it is good for us—clergy, religious and laity—to praise God for His faithful love. In particular, it is good for each of us priests and bishops to praise God for His mercy as we recall the day when we were ordained to serve Him in the Order of the Presbyterate. Above all, after the scandal of the past year, which has been so painful and disturbing for us all, our people have a right to hear from us priests and bishops a public restatement of the commitment we made on the day of our Ordinations. This is what the Church asks priests to do every year at the Chrism Mass. This year let us do so with even greater love for Christ and even deeper awareness of our total dependence on His mercy. Let us also renew in our hearts the total prostration that each of us did on our Ordination day, just before the laying on of hands. Every candidate for the priesthood prostrates himself completely on the floor of the Cathedral and rests his forehead on his hands, symbolizing that he knows well his own unworthiness of the grace he is about to receive, and yet symbolizing also his desire to make a total gift of self to Christ and his complete willingness to undertake this sacred ministry in the Church.

When all the priests of the diocese renew their commitment to priestly service, together, as a body of priests gathered in Jesus’ holy Name, they constitute a public sign of the decisive role that priestly fraternity plays in the life of every priest. You and I, my brother priests in Christ, truly are our “brother’s keeper.” In this regard, I give thanks to God for Bishop Nevares. Jesus sends His Apostles out in twos. There is great wisdom in this plan of our Savior. When we love one another, when we support and encourage each other, when we live priestly fraternity, individualism is overcome; we help one another make a total gift of self to God, after the example of Jesus in the Eucharist and on the Cross. The community created by the sacramental grace of Holy Orders provides a setting second-to-none for ongoing growth in holiness and for solid support in times of difficulty. Recall the words of St. Peter in his Second Letter (1:10f), “…brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. For, in this way, entry into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”

Dear brothers, love the priesthood! Be faithful to the end! See in it the Gospel treasure worth sacrificing everything to obtain it (Cf. Mt 13:44).  As you and I resolve, today, to be ever more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him through sacrifice, listen with me to the words written by St. John Paul II on the 50th anniversary of his Priestly Ordination:

If we take a close look at what contemporary men and women expect from priests, we will see that, in the end, they have but one great expectation: they are thirsting for Christ. Everything else—their economic, social and political needs—can be met by any number of other people. From the priest they ask for Christ. And from him they have the right to receive Christ… The priest has a mysterious, awesome power over the Eucharistic Body of Christ. By reason of this power he becomes the steward of the greatest treasure of the Redemption, for he gives people the Redeemer in person. Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and most sacred function of every priest.”

At this Mass of Chrism, we call down God’s special blessing on all His people and especially upon all priests. We pray with gratitude for Pope Francis and for his intentions. In this Mass, too, let us pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, as we prepare to open a seminary here in our diocese. May the Lord raise up many more priests to bear faithful witness to the Kingdom of God.