MANILA, March 28, 2013—The oil of anointing a priest received on his ordination should overflow to the people whom he is sent to serve and love, Pope Francis said.
More than simply lending fragrance to the person, the oil that a priest is anointed with on his ordination is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone, said the Holy Father in his homily during the first Chrism Mass he celebrated as bishop of Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica.
He said that as ordained ministers, priests carry upon their shoulders and in their hearts, the burdens and faces of the people they are called to serve.
The redemptive efficacy of the priests’ anointing can only be experienced by going “to the ‘outskirts’ where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters,” he said.
When people are anointed with the oil of gladness, they leave the Mass looking as if they heard the good news, the pontiff said.
The pope said people like to hear the gospel preached in a way that touches the reality of their lives.
“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,” he said.
He said people are encouraged to ask for prayers and entrust their cares and burdens to priests because “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,” the pope said.
“When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men,” the pope said.
But priests become mediators only if they go out of themselves and bring the Gospel to others, the pontiff said.
He said too much introspection will not lead one to encounter the Lord but in giving oneself and the Gospel to others.
“A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little, misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart,” said the pope.
The pope also noted that the threat of the “so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets.”
He said “it is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to ‘put out into the deep’, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is ‘unction’ – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.”
The pope also exhorted the faithful to care for the priests and offer prayers for them “that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.” (CBCPNews)