Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne expressed his love and high aspirations for both the ordained clergy and the lay faithful gathered for the April 10 Chrism Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage. This annual solemn liturgy, which precedes Holy Week and Easter, takes its name from the blessing of the chrism and holy oils, used for sacramental purposes throughout the year.
“Tonight we focus our attention very clearly and very intentionally on the Lord, Jesus, who was anointed by the Father and sent into the world,” Archbishop Etienne began his homily. “We can feel his gaze upon us tonight, as well.”
In consecrating the holy oils, which are distributed to all the parishes throughout the archdiocese, Archbishop Etienne affirmed that every member of the Body of Christ is anointed to carry out the mission of the church in proclaiming the Gospel of salvation.
The priesthood of the ordained was especially highlighted in the liturgy, where dozens of priests and deacons throughout the 138,000-square-mile archdiocese gathered to renew their vows and commit themselves to the service of the Gospel.
Turning to his ordained brothers, Archbishop Etienne said, “I want you to know how much I love you, how much the church needs you, and how grateful we are for each of you and your dedication to love and serve the Lord Jesus, manifested in your loving service to God’s people.”
The archbishop quoted the recent letter Pope Francis sent to U.S. bishops for their January retreat: “‘What is being asked of us today is a new presence in the world, conformed to the cross of Christ, one that takes concrete shape in service to the men and women of our time.’”
Archbishop Etienne also had personal words for the lay faithful.
“To the people of God of the local church of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, I say, I love you. The church needs you, your faith, and your generous partnership in the Gospel.”
The task before the church can be best understood by looking at Jesus and listening to his word, Archbishop Etienne observed.
“Jesus entered the lives of many individuals,” he said. “To each he preached and offered the gift of God’s unconditional love and mercy. Jesus encountered each of them personally, he engaged them in the reality and messiness of their lives.”
“My dear people, know that Jesus is in our midst — he is with us,” he told the assembly. “He reveals himself to us in prayer. He accompanies us through every moment of our day. He sits next to us in every person we meet. And most intimately, he is within us.”
Archbishop Etienne called Catholics to greater fidelity to Christ, which gains us the ultimate victory, despite worldly distractions, allurements, sufferings and persecutions.
“He has anointed us. He has created and redeemed us,” the archbishop said. “He claims us as his own. He longs for our faithful and loving response.”
Throughout his homily Archbishop Etienne spoke of a “new ecclesial season,” which he said is about “following Christ and accompanying one another on this pilgrimage of faith.”
Vital to this task are good and faithful priests, he emphasized.
“Now is not the time to diminish the ordained priesthood,” he said. “The priest is essential as the one called and anointed in the person of Christ for the celebration of the sacraments.”
But the ordained priests must also recognize the “indispensable importance of every member of the church.”
Archbishop Etienne called all Catholics to follow Jesus’ lead in seeking out the poor, sick, oppressed and marginalized to bring healing and justice to the world.
“The anointing we receive from Christ makes us one in him, and fit for the joyful work of advancing God’s Kingdom,” he added.
He concluded his homily with a quote from Chiara Lubich, an Italian woman of great missionary zeal, who once stated: “the closer we come to God, by carrying out the divine will, more and more, the closer we draw to each other … until we are all one.’”