Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

The work of Jesus is being fulfilled in our ministry

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The following text was adapted from Cardinal Cupich’s Chrism Mass homily, delivered March 26 at Holy Name Cathedral.

“Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The “today” that Jesus refers to in the Gospels does not refer to a particular 24-hour period or a particular yesterday in which the word “today” was spoken. Rather it is our “today,” this moment in which we hear that word spoken.

And so, as we gather for this Chrism Mass, we who have been anointed in baptism and so too those of us who will use these sacred oils and renew the promises we made on the day we were anointed in the Sacrament of Orders, are called to value the “today” of our ministry as the place Jesus has chosen to be close to his people.

Every one of our days is this “today” of fulfillment.

The calendar pages flip by so quickly that we may forget to take notice of this. But as my brother priests and bishops and I renew at this Chrism Mass the promises of ordination, we are invited to pause and remember the day we first gave the rest of our “todays” to Jesus, so that he could fulfill his work in our ministry and inspire all of the baptized in their closeness to Christ.   

Time and again in the Gospels, Jesus makes clear that he fulfills his mission by being close to people. With our renewal of promises, we are given a special grace to recall that by proclaiming the Word, celebrating the sacraments and shepherding the community, we make possible the closeness of Jesus to his people in every age.

Drawing close to people should always shape our ministry, for it is the key to authentic mercy and truth. As Pope Francis has reminded us, “mercy would not be mercy unless, like a Good Samaritan, it finds ways to shorten distances.”

But distances are also shortened by truth, “because truth is not the definition of situations and things from a certain distance, by abstract and logical reasoning. It is more than that. Truth is also fidelity (“émeth”). It makes you name people with their real name, as the Lord names them, before categorizing them or defining ‘their situation’ … following a ‘culture of the adjective’,” as if the adjective of the person is regarded as the substance. It is this closeness that frees us from “making idols of certain abstract truths,” so that by our closeness ordinary people can experience the “healing closeness of the word and of the sacraments of Jesus” (Pope Francis, Chrism Mass, March 29, 2018).

Some years ago, at a baptism of a newborn, both sides of the family gathered, and the young parents were concerned that the in-laws were not getting along. That reminded me of that old saw about the difference between in-laws and outlaws: The outlaws are wanted.

When the time came for the tracing of the cross on the baby’s forehead, I invited not just the parents and godparents to join me, but all the family members. And so the child was passed from one person to another to trace the cross on his head, and in that exchange you could see the tension melt away as everyone came to appreciate that their shared love of the child bonded them together; a new community was born in the moment, on this “today” of the child’s rebirth in baptism.

This is the privilege that is ours, and we should often bring moments like this to our prayer so that we never lose sight of how God’s grace is active in our “todays,” and how these moments allow us to grow in freedom to be what God is calling us to be.

Bringing these moments to prayer will also help us avoid a warped sense of privilege, one that is concerned with status, a right, an advantage, a benefit or entitlement, something that is due to us, and that exempts us from being subject to the rules, giving us immunity from being held accountable.

Our privilege, instead, is about being granted the opportunity to be part of something we do not deserve, of sharing in the moment of Christ’s victory. It is the kind of privilege I feel in being called to serve in Chicago, in being given an opportunity to be part of something I never could have imagined. And so, my brothers, as I rejoice in the privilege that Jesus uses my “todays” to fulfill all that God has promised, I pray you too may find that same joy in your “todays.”