Priests, by ordination, share in Christís mission
Ordained ministers must fulfil their priestly consecration in
faithful service to God and others
"Christ's priesthood is intimately linked to the mystery of
the Incarnation", the Holy Father said at the Chrism Mass he
celebrated in St Peter's Basilica on Holy Thursday, 20 April,
referring to the common priesthood of the baptized and to the
ministerial priesthood. Here is a translation of his homily, which
was given in Italian.
1. "To him who ... made us a kingdom, priests to his God and
Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever" (Rv
We listen to these words from the Book of Revelation at today's
solemn Chrism Mass which precedes the Sacred Easter Triduum.
Before celebrating the central mysteries of salvation, every
diocesan community is gathered this morning around its Bishop for
the blessing of the holy oils, which are the instrument of salvation
in various sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the
Anointing of the Sick. These signs of divine grace draw their
effectiveness from the paschal mystery, from the Death and
Resurrection of Christ. This is why the Church celebrates this rite
on the threshold of the Sacred Triduum, on the day when, by a
supreme priestly act, the Son of God made man offered himself to the
Father to redeem all humanity.
2. "He has made us a kingdom of priests". We understand
this expression at two levels. The first, as the Second Vatican
Council also recalls, refers to all the baptized who
"are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood,
that through all their works as Christian people they may offer
spiritual sacrifices" (Lumen gentium, n. 10). Every
Christian is a priest. What is meant here is the priesthood called
the "common" priesthood, which commits the baptized to
living the sacrifice to God through participation in the Eucharist
and the sacraments, the witness of a holy life, self-denial and
active charity (cf. ibid.).
At another level, the affirmation that God "has made us a
kingdom of priests" refers to priests ordained as ministers,
called, that is, to form and govern the priestly people and to offer
in their name the Eucharistic sacrifice to God in the person of
Christ (cf. ibid.). Thus the "chrism" Mass solemnly
commemorates the one priesthood of Christ and expresses the priestly
vocation of the Church, in particular, that of the Bishop and
priests united with him. We will shortly be reminded of this by the Preface:
Christ "gives the dignity of a royal priesthood to the people
he has made his own. From these, with a brother's love, he chooses
men to share his sacred ministry by the laying on of hands .... to
renew in his name the sacrifice of our redemption".
3. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has
anointed me.... He has sent me..." (Lk 4:18).
Dear priests, these words concern us directly. By priestly
ordination we have been called to share in Christ's own mission and
today we renew our common priestly commitments together. With deep
emotion let us remember the gift we have received from Christ, who
has called us to a special participation in his Priesthood.
With the blessing of the oils and, in particular, of holy chrism,
let us give thanks for the sacramental anointing which has become
our portion of the inheritance (cf. Ps 15:5). It is is a sign of
inner strength which the Holy Spirit bestows on every human being,
called by God to fulfil specific tasks in the service of his
"Ave sanctum oleum: oleum catechumenorum, oleum infirmorum,
oleum ad sanctum chrisma". As we give thanks in the name of
all who will receive these holy signs, let us pray at the same time
that the supernatural power which acts through them will not cease
to work also in our lives; that the Holy Spirit, resting on each of
us, may find in all the necessary willingness to fulfil the mission
for which we were "anointed" on the day of our ordination.
4. "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of eternal
glory". You came among us to proclaim the year of the Lord's
favour (cf. Lk 4:19).
As I recalled in the Letter to Priests for today's
celebration, Christ's priesthood is intimately linked to the mystery
of the Incarnation, whose 2,000th anniversary we are celebrating
this Jubilee Year. "It is integral to his identity as the Son
incarnate, as God-made-man (n. 7). This is why this evocative
liturgy of Holy Thursday, in a certain way, is almost a connatural
Jubilee celebration for us, although the Jubilee of Priests this
Holy Year is scheduled for 18 May next.
Christ's earthly life, his "passage" through history,
from the moment he was conceived in the Virgin Mary's womb to his
ascension to the right hand of the Father, is one priestly and
sacrificial event. And it is totally within the .
"anointing" of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35; 3:22).
Today we have a special encounter with Christ, the High and
Eternal Priest, and in spirit we pass through this Holy Door which
opens to every human being the fullness of his saving love. Just as
Christ was docile to the action of the Spirit in his human condition
as an obedient servant, so the baptized person and, in a particular
way, the ordained minister must feel committed to fulfilling his own
priestly consecration in humble and faithful service to God and to
Let us begin the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the
liturgical year and of the Great Jubilee, with these sentiments. Let
us prepare to make the intense Easter pilgrimage in the footsteps of
Jesus who suffers, dies and rises. Sustained by Mary's faith, let
us follow Christ, Priest and Victim, "who loves us and has
freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests
to his God and Father" (Rv 1: 5-6).
Let us follow him and together proclaim: "Praise to you,
Lord Jesus Christ, King of eternal glory".
You, Christ, are the same yesterday, today and for ever. Amen!