St. Francis, painting by Vittorio Crivelli, after 1490, El Paso Museum of Art
About 800 years ago, Jesus asked someone to build, or rather, rebuild the Church – St. Francis of Assisi. One day, while praying at the church of San Damiano, St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him from the crucifix: “Go, rebuild my church which is falling down.” Francis thought God wanted him to physically rebuild the collapsing church building, so he started making repairs to the structure. Over time, Francis realized that God wanted him to rebuild the entire Church around the world through prayer, poverty, and peace.
How timely that our newly elected Holy Father has chosen the name Francis, so that in prayer, poverty, and peace he might lead us in rebuilding God’s Church. His life and words in this short time speak to all three. He began as Pope by praying very familiar prayers with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square – prayers we teach our children – the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. Then he requested silence so all might pray for him! His life has embodied the simplicity of St. Francis, and his actions of riding the bus and paying his own hotel bill have made headlines. Finally, Pope Francis has spoken of peace and, joining himself to Pope emeritus Benedict, says that there will be no peace if we are intent on creating our own truth. Instead, he calls us to Jesus: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Of course, it is Jesus Christ who is the builder. The book of Revelations calls Him the “faithful witness,” and Jesus supplies the tools – the Word of God and seven sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, which is that very sacrificial love of Jesus who died and rose for our salvation. Tonight, we will bless those instruments of grace that contribute mightily to this rebuilding when placed in Jesus’ hands: promises and oil.
We all will witness the promises about to be made by those whose palms have been anointed with chrism – our priests. To you beloved priests of the Archdiocese, on behalf of Christ and His people, I say thank you and ask Christ to bless your renewal of ordination promises as you unselfishly serve Him and His people.
We remember the promises that you who are baptized will make on Easter to renounce Satan and his empty show and to embrace our faith. With special delight, I want you catechumens here to know of our joy and prayers as you prepare to make these promises for the first time!
Christ will bless the oil brought in procession. There are three, and each will be instruments of Christ’s grace and power throughout the coming year:
- The Oil of the Sick, which is carried by those in ministry to the sick and suffering– but are we not each of us anointed to bring healing? We pray that through Christ, we might reach out to those who are sick and suffering.
- The Oil of Catechumen, which is carried by those who convey the wisdom and knowledge of the faith to those preparing for baptism –but aren’t we all called to grow in wisdom and share this with all? We pray for continued growth in wisdom and knowledge of our faith.
- The Oil of Chrism, which is carried by those about to be ordained and confirmed and which is used in the consecration of newly-built churches. This oil reminds each of us who have been anointed with the chrism of the Christ to be holy and to lead others to holiness by our examples.
Rebuild my church. Joined with today’s Francis, the Vicar of Christ, as he exercises the Petrine ministry, we know that the house being built is our home. Like St. Francis of Assisi and like Pope Francis, we also know that the Church belongs to Christ, and we belong to Christ. In the new evangelization, we welcome all to the home that is theirs – ever mindful that it is Christ who does the building. “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labor” (Ps 127:1). Armed with oil and promises – each vehicles of God’s grace – we place our lives into the hands of Christ to rebuild the Church. Amen.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz