Archbishop at Chrism Mass: Jesus breaks the devil’s ‘lease’ on the world

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron gives his homily during the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday morning, March 29. Archbishop Vigneron used the annual Mass -- during which priests, deacons and lay faithful from across the diocese gather together -- to remind the faithful of their role in the priesthood of Jesus in "giving God his world back." (Photos by Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic)

Sacred oils a sacramental sign that Christians share in Christ's priesthood, archbishop says

DETROIT -- As priests, deacons and lay faithful from all over the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday morning, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron used the occasion to remind each of their role in the priesthood of Christ and call for Christians to use their gifts to "bring God his world back."

A deacon carries one of the basins of sacred oil to be blessed by Archbishop Vigneron during the Chrism Mass. The oils will be used throughout the archdiocese in the coming year for baptisms, confirmations, anointings and ordinations.

Welcoming representatives from nearly 200 parishes to the annual Chrism Mass, Archbishop Vigneron said he had been praying especially for those who are about to enter the Catholic Church at Easter, some of whom will be anointed with the sacred oils used during baptism and confirmation.

"These oils are truly sacramental realities," Archbishop Vigneron said during his homily, referring to the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism, which he consecrated during the Chrism Mass for use throughout the archdiocese over the coming liturgical year. "Part of what they are is to be a sensible presence of God’s work, God’s grace, moving in our lives through signs."

The Chrism at its heart is a reflection on the priesthood of Christ, whose very name means, "Anointed One," the archbishop said.

"We who belong the body of Christ share in the threefold ministry that comes to Jesus from his anointing," Archbishop Vigneron said. "As the liturgy says, ‘the Chrism is the sign that we disciples of Jesus share in his kingly and prophetic priesthood.’"

That the priesthood of Christ is kingly and prophetic is important, Archbishop Vigneron added, because each of those offices holds a specific function.

“To be a prophet is to speak of and give witness to God’s truth about the world: What does God think? What is God’s plan? That’s the revelation," Archbishop Vigneron said. "To be a king is to have the authority and to be about ordering the world according to God’s truth — what the Bible calls ‘righteousness’ — to put everything in God’s order, according to God’s plan. To be a priest is to offer this rightly ordered world back to its true Lord and Owner. This is the mediation function of the priesthood."

Archbishop Vigneron mixes spices with the sacred Chrism oil, which is used during confirmations, before blessing it.

These functions are set up to guide the Christian to fullness of life in God, Archbishop Vigneron said.

"There will come a day, the end of the age, when there will cease to be prophecy and there will cease to be order, but there will only be glorifying God through self-offering," the archbishop added.

This self-offering to God is what the Second Vatican Council called the "priesthood of the faithful," and is what each Christian's life is ultimately ordered to, Archbishop Vigneron said.

“This is our offering, all of us, the baptized, as priests sharing in the priesthood of Jesus: to offer ourselves. And not just my flesh as it’s bound by this sometimes (size) 38 waist — although I’m working to make it a little less — not just that sense of body, but everything that’s our own," the archbishop said to lighthearted chuckles.

"Something as simple as dusting or changing a flat tire out of love — all of that is our sacrifice, the world being given back to God," he added. "This is our part in the work of Jesus Christ, in turning what had been a wasteland of sin into a new Eden, a new paradise, where God walks with His sons and daughters."

The Church's offering is always acceptable and pleasing to the Father because it's offered along with the perfect sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, Archbishop Vigneron said. And it's precisely because it's given to the Father that it will bear fruit in the life of the Christian.

Faithful pray the Our Father during the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Using the sacrament of the sick as an example, he noted that most who receive the sacrament are at a point in life "where pain is endured most clearly in the flesh." But by offering that suffering to God along with Christ, it becomes transformative.

“We know that only what is commended into the hands of the Father is safe. Everything else will be lost. Only what is sacrificed is saved," the archbishop said.

Similarly, the sacred Chrism plays a role in making confirmation the "Pentecost sacrament," Archbishop Vigneron said, giving believers new strength in the Holy Spirit and cementing their stature as disciples of Christ.

Relating the day's theme to his 2017 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Vigneron noted that evangelization is "a priestly task" in that it involves transforming the world into an offering to God -- an effort that both takes its strength from the Eucharist and has the Eucharist as its ultimate end.

“As you’ve heard me say many times before, ‘God wants His world back,’" Archbishop Vigneron said. "It doesn’t belong to the devil. He’s been holding onto it far too long, and his rent, his lease is up. And it belongs to us as agents of the priesthood of Jesus Christ to be instruments for bringing the world back to the embrace of the Father."

"But it is worth it," the archbishop continued. "This is the point: God’s world will not be won back for Him without this great effort. But it will be successful because Christ is risen, and we have confidence in him."

Seminarians and altar servers kneel at the foot of the sanctuary as Archbishop Vigneron consecrates the Eucharist during the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning.