29 March 2018 Homily by Bishop Treanor at Chrism Mass

NOTES FOR HOMILY – CHRISM MASS

BISHOP NOEL TREANOR

ST PETER’S CATHEDRAL, BELFAST

29 MARCH 2018

I The Mass of Chrism : a liturgy for ecclesial ministry and outreach

The liturgy of the Mass of Chrism – with the extracts from the Word of God (Is 61 ; Ps 89; Lk 4 ; Apoc 1), the blessing of the oils, the consecration of the holy Chrism, the renewal of our priestly promises by the presbyterium and the celebration of the Eucharist – resounds with mission.

The entire liturgy, and in particular the blessing of the oils and the renewal of the promises of our ordination before the faithful, engages each local Church in an annual renewal of its mission to people, to life, to a broken world: this core sentiment is the call to each Christian expressed in the age-old words of the prophet Isaiah (61.1-3, 6, 8-9), cited by Jesus himself in the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4. 16-21) as his own mission statement.

As we come together for this liturgy in our cathedral today, in union with countless thousands in their cathedrals around the world, we join in sacred liturgical actions with the entire Church. Through the actions of this liturgy we exercise our (co-worshipping, co-active and co-responsible) participation in the universal life, ministry and mission of the Church in our times.

This diocese and local Church is blessed and greatly enriched by the rich diversity of its peoples, as reflected in the representation of our parishes, schools, colleges, families, parish and diocesan offices, services and agencies and particularly by the presence of individual, children and families from other countries, peoples and cultures who have come to live, work and raise their families among us.

Together with the priests of the diocese, the Sisters, Fathers and Brothers of the Religious Orders, and the members of monastic communities, who care for us all in prayer and charity, I welcome you all. Together we thank you for your presence here today and for your support and prayers throughout the year.

Together with you and in the name of all whom you represent I thank our priests, religious and monastic communities for their work and for the encouragement of their witness to tireless service for the people entrusted to them.

Inspired by the Word of God and in line with the readings we have just heard, it is our task and mission together to make our parishes and Christian communities living and recognisable centres of faith-inspiring worship, mission and outreach to the broken in heart, mind and body. This is, as we know, the aim of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan to which we have been working over the past five years in our parishes. It has guided us in our parishes and Pastoral Communities, with the support of the Living Church Offices and so many volunteers in town, village and countryside to develop countless initiatives in worship, prayer, faith education and charity.

II The Year Ahead : Sustaining Mission and Outreach

At the diocesan level the year ahead presents as a continuing time of creative work and growth in the shaping of the life of this local Church. An overview of some of the significant milestones gives a sense of the life and work of the dioceses, the parishes and the diocesan agencies and services :

  • The ongoing training of laity and priests in Discerning and Facilitative Leadership skills which is so necessary and important for furthering a culture of co-responsibility in the exercise of ministry and in animating our parishes and Pastoral Communities and their respective organs and agencies
  • The continuing training of members of Parish Councils and Parish Finance Committees
  • The initiation of a programme of assistance and support for financial administration, budgeting and fund-raising in our parishes
  • The ongoing propaedeutic formation of the second group of candidates for the Permanent Diaconate
  • The completion of the four year programme of training of the first group of candidates for the Permanent Diaconate ; their call to Ordination as Deacons ; the celebration, we pray, of their Ordination on Sunday 14 October ; and their appointments to ministries of diaconal service in the diocese, its parishes and pastoral services and outreach.
  • The annual graduation of new teachers, some with specialisation in Religious Education, from St Mary’ University College, Belfast : for generations St Mary’, founded by Bishop Henry Henry and the Dominican Sisters has made an invaluable annual contribution to evangelisation, to society, civilisation and culture through the service of generations of its staff to further education, to Teacher Training and to the school sector
  • The ordination to the priesthood, we pray, of Deacon Tony McAleese, who proclaimed the gospel today
  • The roll-out of the programme of preparation for the World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin in August.
  • And we pray entrants to training for the Priesthood from among the twelve men who took part in the “ Come and See Vocations” programme and retreat, accompanied by Fr Kevin McGuckien, Director for Vocations for the diocese, and supported in turn by many who pray for vocations, including members of the St Joseph’s Young Priests Society.

I cite these few examples for the simple reason that in our culture and times information generates identity and is the fuel of mission and a shared sense of purpose. In this same sense it is also important that we imprint these moments and initiatives on the agenda of Parish Councils in order to build our sense of shared identity, our engagement with life and the world, as a local Church and diocese. As Christians we are called to stamp the fibres of sensibility and of society with the Good News of the Kingdom of God and we continue our efforts in these many ways to do so.

Considering the year ahead beyond our borders, at an all-Ireland level, we look forward to the World Meeting of Families, 21-26 August next. Mid-June will see the return of the WMOF icon to the diocese from 16-26 June – to Ballycastle, Glenravel, Downpatrick and St Patrick’s, Belfast. Preparations for The World Meeting will become more central in the coming months.

For today and as we move through these days of Holy Week, I invite us one and all to stoke a sense of pastoral enthusiasm for the immense potential of this event. Let us encourage each other to participate and to encourage friends and neighbours to do so. And volunteers are still needed !

The World Meeting of Families itself will offer the Church in Ireland an historic opportunity to share and celebrate faith and family life with sisters and brothers in Christ from around the world and to explore in faith with input from other cultural settings and experiences of faith the challenges of our time for family life and for the handing on of faith to our youth.

Later in the year and at the level of the universal world Church in October, we will link again with the life of the Church universal through the work of the Synod of Bishops which will deliberate on the theme of Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. As a local Church we made input via our Living Youth Commission and other means to the preliminary Consultation which fed into the Preparatory Document that appeared this month. Together with Pope Francis this Synod will address the important subject of the personal, spiritual and religious well-being of young people in the challenging context of our contemporary world. The recently published report[1], Europe’s Young Adults and Religion, Findings from the European Social Study 2014-2016, prepared for the Synod by St Mary’s University Twickenham and the Institut Catholique, Paris, points up the challenge for evangelisation of youth and coming generations in Europe in particular.   In any event I encourage all of us, especially our young people, to keep an eye out for reports on the work of the Synod and in time for its final output. I am sure its work will assist local Churches and this diocese in the evaluating and renewing their pastoral care of youth.

Against this overview of the life of the Church at the local, national and universal levels, and the challenges of our time, thoughts drift to the 2019 centenary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter, Maximum Illud, (30 November 1919), with which he launched a renewal of missionary work and zeal after the horrors and upheaval of World War 1. Ireland responded on a remarkable and heroic scale and the true evaluation of that epoch will be achieved in decades or centuries to come.

A reorientation of that missionary focus is now needed in the cities, universities, schools, parishes and homes of Europe and of the Western world, as we know and as evidenced by the St Mary’s Twickenham – Institut Catholique, Paris, report for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops. It may prove to be a more challenging mission, though I remain convinced that the generosity of youth and youth’s enhanced sense of a shared and common humanity provides fertile ground for proclaiming the Good News of the gospel in the era opening before us and in which the question of meaning, the moral question in the deepest anthropological sense is posed more acutely by the ever accelerating development of science and technology.

As Christians we stand on the threshold of a new epoch of mission and evangelisation. Blessed are those who will live to see it evolve and more blessed are we who lay the foundations with our faltering, intuitive yet perhaps sometimes unsure, initiatives. The living church of tomorrow will take shape and form anew under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in God’s time. Ours it is to try and to test with vigour and trust ways of proclamation and evangelisation and to leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.

III The determinative universality of the local and the communal for evangelisation

Whilst meditating on these matters, a curious and an initially paradoxical fact asserts itself. In our cyber world, so impacted by the capacities of information technology and social media, the most local occurrence can become instantaneously global. Thus it is also the case that in the arena of evangelisation the local acquires via the internet a universal and determinative potential. The most local occurrence can edify and inspire locally and almost instantaneously via social media and other platforms can inspire in settings far beyond our knowledge and physical reach.

This is often understood in cautionary terms : “beware of the social media”, as is often remarked !

There is however another side to the social media and the internet, for they offer an immensely positive potential for evangelisation on a radically new scale. For the edifying power of a prayerful, faith-inspired community of faith, portrayed in cyberspace, is limitless. Information technology and presence in cyberspace increases the potential of the Christian community in its many parts to act as herald, witness and laboratory of faith, charity and civic virtue. Evidently this a new frontier of evangelisation for the Church universal and for each local Church and its parishes.

This subject in its manifold dimensions will feature in the proceedings of the World Meeting of Families. Significant impulses for its consideration will flow from the recent papal documents, The Joy of the Gospel, The Joy of Love and Laudato Si’, which re-state for our times the centrality of God as revealed in Jesus Christ (viz the second reading of the liturgy of the Word, Apoc 1.5-8), the need to reconfigure anthropology, as suggested by Pope Francis in many of his statements, and particularly in his Encyclical, Laudato Si’, so as to re-order humanity’s self- understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of things (LS 117 etc).

IV Elements of the created matter blessed for the ministry of salvation in Christ

As we now move to renew the promises of Ordination and bless the oils and Chrism which will be taken to our parishes for our sacramental life, we recall:

  • that this liturgy and rite designate and bless elements of nature, of created matter, to be used as constituent elements of pastoral care and of the sacramental celebration of salvation.
  • that as we priests renew the promises of our Ordination, we are invited to re-align our ministry with the words of Isaiah in the first reading and taken by Jesus as his mission statement

Let us prayerfully engage with these rites and rejoice in supporting each other, priests, religious and faithful in so worshipping and living in our parishes and communities that this our local Church may give glory to God, may make his love present in concrete action and witness and may inspire many to come to know the suffering and risen Christ and the power of his Gospel.

Amen.

[1] BenedictXVIcentre@stmarys.ac.uk