Chrism Mass Homily of Bishop John Noonan
March 28, 2018, St. James Cathedral
Pope Francis being a Jesuit and trained in Jesuit spirituality said, “The senses help us to grasp reality and at the same time to situate ourselves in reality. Not by chance did Saint Ignatius appeal to the senses for the contemplation of the mysteries of Christ and truth.”
Each year we come together as is our custom to celebrate the Mass of Chrism to bless the sacred oils and to renew our priestly promises. We celebrate as priests, deacons, religious women and men God’s gifts in the Sacraments. All the baptized, the confirmed, the sick – all share in the Spirit of the Lord. We honor all our priests but especially those who celebrate their silver and golden anniversary. They are especially anointed and called by Jesus Christ to go out into the world and to preach the Gospel.
Tonight, we heard Jesus came to Nazareth where He had grown up and went according to His custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. Jesus read, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me.” Appealing to our senses, let us contemplate the Mystery and truth of these words. Again, Saint Ignatius of Loyola reminds us, “it is not great knowledge that fulfills and satisfies the soul, but feeling and tasting things inwardly.” What do we see, what do hear, what do we smell, what do we taste and what do we touch? To see is to see with the light of Christ. To hear is to hear “In the beginning was the Word.” To smell is to smell the odor of the Chrism. To taste is to taste the joy that dwells in our hearts. To touch is to touch the flesh of Christ. These are the 5 spiritual senses that enables us to become priests. Pope Francis these are “sound senses”, that enable our priestly lives to be “savored” in Christ.
What do I see, hear, taste, smell and touch tonight? Jesus stood up to read in the synagogue. Returning for the first time since He began His ministry. The people heard about the great miracles; the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk and water changed into wine. What did they hear, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor? He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery to sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Finished reading, He sat down and the eyes of all looked intently at Jesus. All were quiet and full of suspense. What would Jesus do? He said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
But the people were not happy; their hearts were empty. They heard the Word and they saw Jesus but wanted more. They wanted to see with their hearts. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium said, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus . . . it is a gift of the Spirit; it is a sign of our embrace of Jesus and of His Gospel.” We must allow the joy of the Gospel to fill our hearts so that we may not only hear but believe.”
When we preach the Gospel do we “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:9)? Are our hearts stirred to give witness to the Gospel? Pope Francis said, “It’s not enough to hear with our ears, without welcoming in our hearts the seed of the divine Word, allowing it to bear fruit.”
“Listening to the liturgy is not enough, it must reach the heart of the faithful for it to lead to action. “This is the journey of the Word of God: From the ears to the heart to the hands. The homily is not a casual discourse, nor a conference or a lesson, but a way of ‘taking up anew that dialogue which has already been opened between the Lord and His people . . . The one who gives the homily has to remember he isn’t doing something of his own,” the pope said. “He’s preaching, he’s giving a voice to Jesus, he’s preaching the Word of Jesus. It has to be well-prepared and brief.”
But my dear people you are not to be like the disheartened people of Nazareth who came to see a miracle but not to hear with their hearts. The ultimate taste of the Lord is the gift of joy that settles in all our hearts when we welcome his Gospel.
Reflecting on this as we celebrate our 50th anniversary year of the founding of our Diocese. As I was reflecting the thought that came to my mind was Eucharist which means an action of thanksgiving to God. I am filled with thanksgiving to God – gratitude – for all the blessings we have received and continue to receive here in the Diocese of Orlando. I give thanks to all who have preached the Gospel over these past 50 years and more; for the priests who have served and continue to serve in our Diocese. Msgr. David Page who celebrates 60 years of priesthood this year reminded me about another great priest and Bishop Joseph P. Hurley. The Florida born, the American born, the Irish born, and Spanish born priests came here for the past 50, 60, 70, 80 years. They sacrificed with their lives and laid the foundation of the faith in our Diocese. Today we have priests and seminarians born in the Diocese of Orlando working with priests from Puerto Rico, Dominican Rep., Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia. Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Italy, England, Poland, Malta, India, Korea, and Vietnam.
Pope Francis said it best, “I see clearly that the things the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.” You priests are the healers of souls and warmer of hearts. The Spirit of the Lord is upon you because the Lord has anointed you.”