My dear brothers
and sisters in Christ,
Next week, beginning with weekend Masses on April 8 and 9, celebrating Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, we will begin Holy Week, culminating in the glorious celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
I take this opportunity to encourage you to attend the Holy Week ceremonies in your parish, especially on Holy Thursday, commemorating the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood; Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, recalling the great sacrificial death of Christ upon the cross that all might be redeemed in Him; and the solemn Easter Vigil at which our brothers and sisters enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) will be fully incorporated into the church.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, April 11 at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, the solemn Chrism Mass will be celebrated, and parishioners throughout our diocese are most cordially invited to attend. At this annual Mass, our priests renew their priestly promises resolving “to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him” as “faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites,” pledging “to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd” (Solemn Chrism Mass).
At this same Mass, the sacred Oil of the Sick and the sacred Oil of Catechumens are blessed, and the oil of Holy Chrism is consecrated by the diocesan bishop. The Oil of the Sick, used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, is blessed to be “a remedy for all who are anointed with it; (to) heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit, and deliver them in every affliction” (Ibid.)
The Oil of Catechumens is blessed to “give wisdom and strength to all who are anointed with it in preparation for their baptism” and to “bring them to a deeper understanding of the Gospel” and to “help them to accept the challenge of Christian living and lead them to the joy of new birth in the family of the Church.” (Ibid.)
The “Oil for the Holy Chrism” is consecrated to become “a sign of life and salvation for those who are to be born again in the waters of baptism” and “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the sacrament of confirmation. Those called to the Order of Priesthood, whose fullness is recognized in the episcopacy, shall be anointed with this Chrism granting to them “royal, priestly and prophetic honor” for service in humility to God’s people in imitation of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, from whom “chrism takes its name” (Ibid.)
These oils, blessed within the Eucharistic Sacrifice, underline the ministerial nature of the priesthood, a call to serve, a call to imitate the Master — to don the apron as He did when He washed the feet of His first priests and told them to do likewise. During this Mass I unite with our priests in thanking God for our deacons, religious and laity who offer us their support and assistance in so many areas of diocesan life and ministry.
I pray that Holy Week truly will be a special week, a privileged week to deepen our personal relationship with the Lord. If Lent has passed thus far with our hopes for increased prayer, penance and charitable works not being realized as we had hoped, Holy Week provides an excellent opportunity to recapture the meaning of this holy season.
As we prepare for the glorious feast of Christ’s Resurrection, let us contemplate His greeting to His disciples on that first Easter Sunday: “Peace be with you.” How much this peace is so needed as divisions among peoples have fractured our country, the world and even caused disquiet within the church. Violence, inhumane actions of one person against another, the loss of lives because of war and terrorist acts are so very contrary to the peace intended by Christ for God’s people redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. But to receive the peace of Christ one needs to be united with Him. From this union, we become Pauline, that is, in the words of St. Paul: “… the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me” (Galatians 2:20). We become instruments of peace, beginning in our own homes and then reaching out into the community through union with the Lord.
In his 2016 World Day of Peace Message, Pope Francis wrote: “The first kind of indifference in human society is indifference to God, which then leads to indifference to one’s neighbor … This is one of the grave consequences of a false humanism and practical materialism allied to relativism and nihilism. We have come to think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society. We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without Him. As a consequence, we feel that we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves …” Pope Francis also makes reference to Blessed Pope Paul VI, who noted: “… there is no true humanism but that which is open to the Absolute” (Encyclical Populorum Progressio, 42).
On Easter, we renew our baptismal promises and recommit our lives to the Lord. May this renewal rise from deep within our hearts, united to the will and the intellect, and be given with joy, a joy that brings peace! When we make these promises, let us be conscious that we have committed ourselves not to a moment, a day, or a year but to a life lived in the Risen Christ and according to His commands. “We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must withdraw our hearts from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love. At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards” (Benedict XVI, Easter Vigil, St. Peter’s Basilica, March 22, 2008).
My brothers and sisters in the risen Lord Jesus, I wish you a joyous Easter and a blessed Easter season, especially those among us who suffer the weight of personal crosses. May you invite the Lord to lighten your burden. May we all hear and experience Christ’s Easter greeting, “Peace be with you!”
Invoking the intercession of our Mother Mary and Saint John Fisher, patron of our diocese, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester