The Oil of Gladness

In his homily at this morning's Chrism Mass, Pope Francis developed the image of anointing with oil and applied it to priestly ministry. He said:

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with unction, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the outskirts where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem, Bless me, Pray for me these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God.

And he concluded:

Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to Gods heart.Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those outskirts where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lords disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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