VATICAN CITY — The holy oil blessed at the Chrism Mass is a reminder of the priest’s call to be close to the People of God, pouring himself out in service to them, Pope Francis said Thursday.
“I would say this: We [priests] are not distributors of bottled oil,” the pope said April 18, 2019. “We anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart.”
Priests not only anoint with sacramental oil, they “anoint by dirtying our hands in touching the wounds, the sins and the worries of the people. We anoint by perfuming our hands in touching their faith, their hopes, their fidelity and the unconditional generosity of their self-giving,” he said.
Francis spoke to priests living in Rome about the “grace of closeness” during the Chrism Mass of Holy Week, the Mass at which the pope, as the bishop of Rome, blesses the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Chrism Oil, which will be used throughout the diocese over the coming year.
“When we anoint others” with this holy oil, he said, “we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and the affection of our people.”
Pope Francis recalled the many times the Gospel speaks of Jesus being surrounded by crowds. “The Lord never lost that direct contact with people,” he said. “Amid those crowds, he always kept the grace of closeness with the people as a whole, and with each individual.”
This is what the Lord’s priests are called to do, he said.
“By setting us with Jesus in the midst of our people, may the Father renew deep within us the Spirit of holiness,” he prayed. “May he grant that we be one in imploring his mercy for the people entrusted to our care and for all the world.”
“In this way, the multitude of the peoples, gathered in Christ, may become the one faithful people of God, which will attain its fullness in the Kingdom,” he continued.
The pope explained that priests can find in the crowds of people an “evangelical model” for their ministry.
The people of their parish “are the ones who complete and make real the anointing of the Spirit in ourselves; they are the ones whom we have been anointed to anoint,” he said, reminding priests that they themselves came from the crowd of “ordinary people.”
The Catholic people “are an image of our soul and an image of the Church,” he stated.
The people in the Gospels demonstrated their affection for Jesus by following him, but this attitude is contrasted, he said, with the attitude of the disciples, who in their “small-mindedness” suggest that Jesus send them away in order to get something to eat.
“Here, I believe, was the beginning of clericalism,” the pope explained. There is a temptation to clericalism “in this desire to be assured of a meal and personal comfort without any concern for the people. The Lord cut short that temptation: ‘You, give them something to eat!’ was Jesus’ response. ‘Take care of the people!’”
Francis urged priests to counteract this temptation by remembering that “we priests are the poor man and we would like to have the heart of the poor widow whenever we give alms.”
“We priests are [the blind man] Bartimaeus, and each morning we get up and pray: ‘Lord, that I may see.’ We priests are, in some point of our sinfulness, the man beaten by the robbers. And we want first to be in the compassionate hands of the good Samaritan, in order then to be able to show compassion to others with our own hands,” he said.
Hannah Brockhaus CNA