Reverend Monsignori and Fathers,
Consecrated men and women,
Brothers and sisters,
All beloved in Christ,
1. The oils we bless today are physical signs of the spiritual anointing that we receive both as individuals and as members of the Christian community. We use them in the sacraments: baptism, confirmation, ordination, anointing of the sick – to ask the Lord to send His Spirit on us: to consecrate us as His priestly people, to heal our broken spirits and to empower us for service.
2. Last year, we celebrated the Year of the Laity. We were reminded that all of us are called to holiness. Holiness cannot be reduced to being kind and gentle. Usually, we have to be make difficult choices. That is why we have to “choose to be brave”. The young couple who welcome their children with love, the laborer and the businessman who work with integrity, the politician who serves with honesty, teenagers who stand up to bullying, basic ecclesial communities who care for the environment… they are the brave ones. Teachers who devote their lives to their students, police officers who risk their lives to maintain peace and order, soldiers who defend our sovereignty with their lives, firefighters, paramedics, nurses and doctors who respond to emergencies, NGOs who serve the poor in different ways… they are the brave ones. They live their lives as the Spirit intends: liberating, educating, healing, bringing the Gospel to the poor. Yes, dear lay brothers and sisters, this is your anointing: you are all called to holiness and heroism, not in the convent, but in the world! Do you remember that prayer?
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created.
And thou shall renew the face of the earth.
3. What does this mean for us deacons, priests and bishops? This means that the anointing we received at ordination is not for ourselves but for you, God’s People. We are to pray with you and for you. We are to bless you and anoint you. We are to form you and equip you so that you can fulfil your mission in the world. Do our liturgies help you to become better parents? Are our churches spiritual oases in which difficult choices can be made in peace? Are we providing formation for labourers and investors, for community leaders and public servants? Are our organizational structures pro-family? I am happy to note that in our Diocese, churches are beautiful not because they have the latest gadgets, but because the communities pray, discern and act as one… because parish leaders face challenges with humility, conversion and compassion… as Pope Francis would say, because their priests do not simply maintain buildings, they produce missionaries.
4. This is what we need in the Year of Poor: lay men and women who have a sense of mission and anointing as they raise families, earn a living, serve the public and develop the earth, the heritage of future generations. This is what we need in the Year of the Poor: young men and women who are not afraid to follow Jesus, to live their lives as an adventure with Jesus! The gifts of the Spirit are not limited to wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord by which we are “equipped for every good work” (cf. 2 Tim 3:17). St. Paul adds those charisms by which the Spirit raises apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle-workers, healers, helpers, administrators and interpreters of tongues (cf. 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28). With “helpers”, we understand those who instruct, advise, console, comfort, forgive, bear wrongs patiently. Do you recognize them? They are the spiritual works of mercy. What are the others, the corporal works of mercy? Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, burying the dead (cf. Mt 25:35-36; CCC 2447). How I wish we could realize the Lord’s words: It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice! (cf. Mt 12:7).
5. At this point, let us greet our consecrated men and women. It is their year, too! The Year of Consecrated Life! The Second Vatican Council affirms that the consecrated life is “the pursuit of perfect charity through the evangelical counsels”, that it “draws its origin from the doctrine and example of the Divine Master” and that it is “a splendid sign of the heavenly kingdom” (Perfectae Caritatis 1). This is the anointing of our religious brothers and sisters: “Driven by love with which the Holy Spirit floods their hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), they live more and more for Christ and for His body which is the Church (cf. Col 1:24)” (PC 1). Let us thank the Lord for the variety of charisms he raises among our consecrated men and women: praying with and for the Church, caring for the sick and elderly, education, parish work and many more! They embody for us St. Paul’s reminder: “Strive for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way”: the way of love (1 Cor 12:31-13:13). Without agape or caritas, nothing we do has meaning. With love, even the simplest and least act of service can transform lives. Love is the greatest anointing.
6. Much has happened since our Chrism Mass last year. The Holy Father visited us in January! I am proud that you welcomed him with open arms. The first and last that he saw in the Philippines were your smiles, your tears, your devotion. May his message of mercy and compassion bear fruit in us as we prepare for the Year of Mercy next year.
Four of our priests passed away:
– Mons. Benedicto Aquino was parish priest of Mary Mother of the Church Parish.
– Fr. Jesus Estrada fought cancer with edifying courage and joy.
– Fr. Luigi Ilari OSM was one of the pioneers of the OSM mission in Tunasán in 1984.
– Fr. Gregorio Obejas OSM was the first Filipino parish priest of St. Peregrine Laziosi Shrine.
We miss them. This Mass is offered especially for them.
I ask your prayers for the physical and spiritual healing of Fr. Melchor Montalbo Jr., Mons. Manuel Sebastian and Mons. Jose Bernardo Jr. Let us ask God that Fr. Gregory Ramos’ cancer will not return.
Just as we did in 2011, we shall be announcing the new parish priests of all parishes at the Chrism Mass two years from now. As we look forward to the general reshuffle of 2017, let us ask that the Spirit continue to anoint us so that we can serve the Lord in joy and humility.
7. My dear brothers priests, do you love your parishioners? … Then anoint them with greater love and selflessness. Forgive their faults. Never abandon them.
My dear brothers and sisters, do you love your priests? … And do you love your bishop? … I love all of you, too. Anoint us by your prayers and forgiveness. Help us to love you as you deserve. Amen.