Text: Archbishop of Birmingham at Chrism Mass

 Extracts from homily preached by the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham at St Chad's Cathedral yesterday Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. He has made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. These words, from the book of Revelation, set the scene for our celebration of this Chrism Mass. Today, we seek from Almighty God renewal for the sacramental life of the Church. In particular we seek to be renewed in our priesthood, in our readiness to bring all things to God, to consecrate all time and effort to him, and in all things to seek to give him glory. And for those of us privileged to be ordained priests, called to preach and celebrate sacraments in the name of the Church, we resolve to renew in our hearts the grace of that ordination. We come to the well-spring of the sacraments, to Christ and to his gift of the Holy Spirit. In a few moments we will bring our sacred vessels, filled with oil, so that, at the command of Christ, they may be filled with the Holy Spirit. Just as importantly, we bring the vessels of our hearts and souls that we, personally and collectively, may be reformed and renewed by that same Spirit. Only then shall we be the individuals and the community that can bear witness to the truth and love of God in our world today, as put before us as our task in Christ, in the Gospel of St Luke. The Oil for the anointing of the sick will be carried to the altar by Wilhelmina Burdon, a hospital volunteer, Sister Catherine Mullins, a hospital sister and Fr Jeremy Howard one of our hospital chaplains. We bring first to the Lord our bodily weakness, pain and distress. They can be such an obstacle to our finer sentiments, weakening our sensitivity towards others, sapping our patience, our trust in the Lord and clouding our faith. Yet those very sufferings can be transformed and become redemptive when we cling to Christ and make them an offering to the Father in union with him. We pray for all who work in hospitals and hospices, doctor s surgeries and day clinics; for those who extend support and compassion to neighbours, friends and family members, often over long periods of time. As priests of the Lord may we all enrich our prayer, especially our prayer for vocations, with the offering of our hardships, discomfort and pain. Then we bring the Oil for the anointing of the Catechumens, carried this morning by Sister Gillian from Oxfordshire, Janine Muller from Maryvale and Fr David Oakley its Director of Parish Catechesis. In doing so we remember that our souls search for new life, for the fullness of life, a life not of flesh and blood but rooted in Christ and fruitful with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This new life in the Lord begins in baptism and comes to its fulfilment in the glory of heaven. Such is our pilgrim way. Then comes the Oil for Chrism, from which this celebration takes its title. By anointing with Chrism we are first conformed to Christ in baptism. In confirmation that Christian identity is deepened and the foundations laid for our particular and specific vocation. Confirmation, in a particular way, is the sacrament of hope for it assures us that our life has a personal God-given purpose which, in God s good time, will be made clear to our attentive ear. For some that vocation lies in marriage; for others in a dedicated single life; for others in religious community; and for some in the ordained ministry. In particular, today, with the consecration of the Chrism we seek renewal and rededication for all of us, priests and bishops. The oil for consecration is brought forward today by Fr Bruce Harbert (Executive Director of ICEL (The International Commission on English in the Liturgy), who today celebrates the Silver Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. Bruce, we are so glad that you are with us, away for a while from your important and sensitive work in translating liturgical texts. That will keep you busy indeed! Together with Fr Michael Vaughan, representing the young priests, another priest of the diocese is also to bring forward the oil this morning. I must give him his correct title: Bishop-elect Kevin Dunn of Hexham and Newcastle. Kevin we congratulate you; we thank you most warmly for all you have given to this diocese. I know you will miss your home company and places. We will miss you. But you will quickly take your new diocese to your heart, with all its wonderful heritage and warm-hearted people but not that fourth place in the Premiership! Kevin, you will be in the thoughts of us all especially on 25th May, the day of your Episcopal Ordination. Our prayers and love will be with you. Today, then, we see before us the richness of the life of the Church in the greatest of her gifts, the sacraments. Now we spend a few moments reflecting on our renewal in the Lord, especially we priests who are publicly to recommit ourselves to our ministry this morning. On Good Friday we shall again proclaim the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John. Those who have seen the film The Passion of the Christ will hear the Gospel with newly vivid images and feelings. And that is right, for imagination is such an important part of our lives and our prayer. Indeed in our daily attempt to live in a close relationship with the Lord, imaginative prayer can help us in so many ways. I must live in love with Him. Each morning I enter again into this relationship; each day I spoil it; each day I seek to renew and strengthen my love for him. So this morning we renew in our hearts, and between us as the presbyterate, our resolve to stay faithful to the Lord. Where else can we go with our burdens, which are, in the end, simply the burden of mortality: our own, that of our people and certainly that of our world? We can only go to him who alone has conquered death. For this reason our ceremony and our act of priestly renewal is marked by a mature and sober confidence: confidence in Him who is the source of our life, of our ministry and of our hope. He is the one whose sacrifice we offer daily, for ourselves and for those who are dear to us in the Lord. Then, in the pattern of our lives as in action of the Mass, when the sacrifice is complete, but not before, we can offer to our brothers and sisters the Body and Blood of the Lord. This is our privilege and our joy. Therefore, I now ask you, my brother priests, to be ready to renew your commitment to priestly service, in this diocese of Birmingham, for the sake of the Lord and for the sake of his beloved people.

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