Chrism Mass 31/3/2021
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Living in hybrid time”
The saying attributed to Woody Allen “that 80% of life is turning up” is not like it used to be. Our new experience of working from home has changed not just how we work, but has forced us to rethink so many other areas of life too. So many of our meetings are virtual rather than real. Hybrid is a word we find ourselves using more often to capture the new mixture that is emerging.
When things are stable and predictable, we can make plans about work, holidays, careers and so much else that makes looking forward exciting and uplifting. Yet right now we are wrecked by so much uncertainty and by the unknown. This tends to give us a feeling that our lives are on hold until we can begin to do all these things again. But that can lead us to forget the importance of the now – the present moment and facing its reality in a proactive way.
This past year of the Pandemic has rattled us all in the Church and society. So much we have taken for granted has had to be questioned in the face of the threat to life itself. We are gathering for this Chrism Mass in very restricted form because of that threat to life. We would dearly love to have a congregation, as we usually do, representing all the parishes of the Diocese along with a large cohort of priests to celebrate this special occasion, to give thanks for the ministry of the priesthood and the sacramental celebrations that flow from it. Restricted as we are, we focus on the essential elements at the heart of this celebration of Chrism – the renewal of our priestly promises and the blessing of the oils.
We celebrate the call and response of living the priesthood in fidelity to Jesus’ example. The oils we bless are signs and expressions of healing, grace and empowerment in the sacraments we celebrate in the name of Jesus as we respond to His call to baptise in His name, confirm in the gift of the Holy Spirit – as we anoint the sick and infirm in their hour of need – as we anoint those who in faith and humility say yes to share the good news of God’s providence and mercy for all. This is the extraordinary vision at the heart of this gathering in prayer that we call the Chrism Mass.
So this evening we who have been called and anointed for service in the priesthood before God renew our vows/promises. In doing, we do so with gratitude in our hearts for the service to which we have been called. We do so conscious of our sinfulness and failure for which we seek forgiveness of God and of you our sisters and brothers. We also renew our faith and trust in God’s grace at work in and through our priestly service of which the celebration of the Sacraments bear witness constantly.
No different from a couple who pledge their love for one another in lifelong marriage and do so for better or worse, in sickness and in health. So too, the priest pledges his faithful service in good times and in bad. The priests of this generation have been truly tested by the shifting sands of society and the fickle forgetful nature of many who have been served with generosity.
Right now, we live in ‘hybrid time’. No one knows quite what is evolving in the world of work, education and family. It looks like “everything is up for grabs”. One thing that is agreed about the Pandemic experience is that we have been forced to rethink our lives, knowing things will be different. This is equally true for us in priesthood and all those women and men who work with us in our parishes. This calls us to be open to what is emerging, to discern how together we can enable the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our work, to keep the treasure of Christian spirituality at the heart of contemporary life. The good news that “He came that we might have life and in abundance” (John 10:10) is ever true. It does not tire with times passing but it needs a new form of words and action for each new generation.
That is our shared and ongoing mission, the heralds of that good news of abundant life in Christ, for these emerging ‘hybrid time’.
May the Lord who began the good work in us, bring it to completion. (Rite of Ordination)