Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Holy Week: A time to remember who we are

April 5, 2023

It is striking that just as the early church referred to Jesus as the Messiah with the word “Christ,” they claimed that they too were anointed, by referring to themselves as Christians (Acts 11:26). The point is clear. Integral to the disciples’ core belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ, anointed to bring salvation to the world, is their claim that he has anointed them to be partners in this redeeming work.

Each year, the Chrism Mass is an invitation for us to connect with the ancient church and its core belief so that we may take up with fresh energy this work of joining in Christ’s saving ministry. It is a day to reclaim our identity.

It is important to do this especially as the archdiocese takes up the work of renewal, aimed at placing the primacy of sharing our faith at the center of parish life. Doing so has enormous implications for how parishioners stay in dialogue with each other to share in this work, for who leads parish ministry, for how we craft our priorities and inspire parishioners to help advance them.

But we also do this as the Holy Father invites us to be a synodal church, anchored in the reality that the whole of the People of God are journeying together, and in the commitment to making space for every believer to participate in and contribute to the life of the church.

And, finally, we reflect on our identity as the church in this country takes up the task of a eucharistic revival, which must begin, as Pope Francis reminds us, with the conviction that we are drawn to the Eucharist by “his desire for us” and that “no one has earned a place at that Supper. All have been invited” (“Desiderio Desideravi,” 6, 4).

Blessing and distributing the sacred oils at the Chrism Mass puts us in touch with those sacred actions that have made us Christians. It reminds us that immediately after our baptism, the celebrant anointed us with chrism and pronounced these words: “The God of power and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation so that, united with his people, you may remain forever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet, and King.”

The rites of blessing the oils and the celebration of the Eucharist coupled with the readings from the prophet Isaiah, the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of St. Luke at the Chrism Mass reverberate with this sacramental work of the Trinity that sets all of us apart as priests who are entrusted with the mission of Jesus, as he proclaimed it at the beginning of his ministry in Nazareth.

From Isaiah we heard: “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called.” And from the Book of Revelation: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom of priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”

We all belong to “a kingdom of priests.” And in that kingdom, some are specially ordained and ordered to serve the priesthood of all the baptized, so that sharing in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ who declared himself the anointed of God, the Christ, we might all be priests, prophets, and kings in this world.

As prophets, we proclaim glad tidings to the poor, a word of hope to a broken and sundered world. As kings, we lead, guide, and direct the world on the paths of justice, peace, mercy, and compassion. As priests, we offer the sacrifice of the Lord and join it to our own gift of self as we say with him, “This is my body, this is my blood for the many.” And in all of this, as priests, prophets, and kings, we are a kingdom, a living communion, the great “synodos,” the assembled and journeying people of God homeward bound.

May we never forget who we are, and may we never fear to take up the responsibility entrusted to us. Our confidence is in God, for “the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because he has anointed us.” And our inspiration is that today, through us, the Christians, all that was ever promised and foretold of the Christ is being fulfilled in our hearing.

This column was adapted from Cardinal Cupich’s Chrism Mass homily, delivered at Holy Name Cathedral on April 4.