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Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Text: Bishop Crispian Hollis at Portsmouth Cathedral Chrism Mass
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 Bishop Hollis gave this homily on Tuesday, 7 April. During the year, we often gather to celebrate as a diocese and with particular groups in mind. It may be for the anointing of the Sick, or the celebration of confirmation, or, as will happen on April 25th, the celebration of marriage and the renewal of promises. These are all celebrations of the whole Church.

This Mass of the Oils is another such celebration and its sharp focus is on our priests and deacons and their ministry. I am very well aware of the affection, reverence and esteem in which you justly hold our priests and I know too that you ceaselessly pray for us to flourish and grow in the dedication and commitment to the Lord's call, given to us for the service and shepherding of his Church. So, unashamedly, I speak today of them.

You know what richness you need to find in our ministry. You expect to be able to find in us a familiarity and an intimacy with God so that, with humility and confidence, we may be able to lead you into an encounter with the Lord. We have to learn and we do so because of your trust of us and prayer for us that we are not to proclaim ourselves, though we do have to use the human gifts we have. When all is said and done, God is the only richness you wish to find in us.

I claim no originality for these thoughts; they come from an address given by Pope Benedict the other day when he announced the beginning of a "Priestly Year" starting in June to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of the Cure d'Ars. His addresses to priests have much to say of the richness and treasure that is found in the ordained ministry and they have formed the basis of my Lenten reading this year.

These thoughts then bring me to the readings for today and I want to start with the last words of the Gospel we have just heard. Although this is a historical record of what Jesus said in the synagogue in Nazareth, his words have an immediacy and a reality for us today. "This text", he says" is being fulfilled today even as you listen."

We who are ordained are among those who share in Christ's anointing. We are chosen to bring the good news to the poor the good news of the Gospel lived and preached by word and example. We are enabled to bring hope and the possibility of freedom to those trapped and enslaved by sin in their lives when we pronounce the words of absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation. Though often blind ourselves, we are nevertheless empowered by Christ to help others to see and experience both the Lord and the overwhelming love that he has for us. We are those who will often take the lead in enabling our communities and parishes to be places where human rights and dignity are discovered, respected and treasured. You have a right to expect leadership from us and your hope is that through us and through yourselves the wonderful promises of the Gospel can be fulfilled.

This is the life of the Church which we love and it's why we come in gratitude and hope to celebrate with you. We confess again that we need your prayers if we are to be faithful to those simple words we spoke at our ordinations "I am here, I am present." We need to explore again and again what it means "to stand in the presence of the Lord and serve Him". We can only do that when we are supported and sustained by your prayers, by your friendly support and generous kindness, such is the nature of the mutual love which builds and sustains the communion of the Church. As the Holy Father writes, if we are not faithful to the call given us by Christ, if we undervalue our ordained ministry, then there can be no Eucharist or mission or Church as we know it.

It's in the light of these reflections on the ministry of our priests and deacons that we look forward today, and for the coming year, to the continuing prospering and sanctifying of our communities. This happens through the sacraments, and especially through those visible signs of the sacraments which this blessing of the Holy Oils signifies. The sacraments are truly "the oil of gladness" and they consecrate us all into ministry and witness. They vividly mark the presence of God's Spirit in us and in the life of the world about us. They are the signs of the anointing of which the Gospel and Isaiah speak. They shape and form us all, clergy and laity alike, as God's people, enabling us to be "priests of the Lord and ministers of our God famous throughout the nations and a race whom God has blessed."

This means that, although the focus of our prayer today is the ordained ministry, this celebration belongs to us all. This is always true, but it's also very important never to forget to acknowledge and affirm the crucial nature of the leadership into God that comes from those who are ordained. Without priests there can be no Mass and no real life in our Catholic community as we know and love it.

My last word today is to remind you, with pride, of those priests and deacons who, during this year, have died and gone to their reward, marked with the sign of faith. I know that they value our prayers and we certainly need theirs if we are to continue to grow and faithfully "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

So, please pray for Ricky Davey, Bill Dunphy, Ted Dwyer, Tom Grundy, Colm Kelleher, Frank McAlinden, Harry Murphy, Pat O'Donnell, Brian Scantlebury all priests of the diocese and for Vincent Jones who was a deacon.

Pray too please for Paul Leonard and Pat Madden who will be ordained to the priesthood in the summer and for Gerard Dailly, John di Meo and Peter Silsbury who will ordained to the diaconate.
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