Homily of Bishop Robert F. Vasa for Chrism Mass April 6, 2017

April 7 2017
Bishop Robert F. Vasa

Homily of Bishop Robert F. Vasa for Chrism Mass Thursday, April 6 2017

My brothers: I always look forward with joyful eagerness to this opportunity to celebrate with you our Mass of Chrism. I take great joy in this Mass in which the entire Diocese is drawn together in this single space. Here we gather with nearly all of the Presbyterate of the Diocese representing all of our six counties, we gather with a significant number of our deacons and with the religious and laity as a full expression of this particular Church which is the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

            While this day is somewhat an annual routine for us, it is important that we allow it to be ever new and renewing for us. It is important that we actually work at making it ever new for ourselves and that we encourage attendance by the people of God. I am sure you are all aware that a vast number of our Catholic people have no idea that this Mass is happening today and a similar number have thus never considered attending the Mass of Chrism. While it may not be new to us, it would certainly be a new experience, and a very positive one for the people of the Diocese whom we serve. The same can be said of our daily celebration of Mass. We must actively work at making this very routine part of our everyday life the actual source and summit of all of the graces of the day for us and for our people. The celebration of daily Mass must be our baseline as priests, deacons and religious and as far as possible for the laity as well. Our renewal of promises today should include for us this internal resolution: To celebrate Mass every day between now and the next Chrism Mass.

            The role of Catholic and Christian laity is a major topic of the Documents of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium): “They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity” (LG, 31; emphasis added).

            I feel it is necessary and valuable to point out that these words are not written about priests and religious but rather about the laity.  While it is still true that religious are highly regarded and respected, and rightfully so, this call to “work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven” is addressed not to religious or bishops but rather to all of us gathered here.  Priests, Religious and Deacons are certainly called to this vocation by God but not in the same general and expansive fashion as the laity.  It is still appropriate and necessary to look to priests and religious, and perhaps especially to bishops, to provide through their example and reverence of life, an appropriate leadership but there is also a responsibility which flows to each member of the laity directly, not through assignment by a priest or bishop. This is true so that you might enjoy a maximum of freedom in fulfilling your personal, Baptismal duty to “make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”

            The phrase of the Council reminds us of our Lord’s statement that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden and that no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bed or under a basket.  The lives of all Christians, no less than that of the lives of priests and religious, are to be resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Then those lives would be a bright and shining beacon on a hill and a lamp set properly on a lampstand. This is not idle rhetoric or boastful arrogance but rather the boldness of faith which, as we proclaim after the renewal of Baptismal promises at Confirmation: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

            The Renewal of Promises by priests at today’s Chrism Mass affords an opportunity to each of us to ask the same questions of ourselves. The question placed before us is: “Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your (baptism, confirmation, marriage) priestly ordination?”  

            This is not significantly different than what the Council asks of all of us. We could phrase the question: Are you Resolved to “make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”

            In this question really two things, above all, are asked of us: a resolve to establish and strengthen an interior bond, a personal configuration to Christ, and at the same time the statement of a resolve to continue to move beyond ourselves, even to deny ourselves, which is entirely counter-cultural. It entails a renunciation and a letting go of the cultural icon of self-fulfillment. This is a clear acknowledgement of our personal and willful commitment to the Gospel wherein we do not even claim our own lives as our own, but place them, as fully as possible, at the disposal of another, namely, of Christ. In doing this we seek not what we stand to gain but what we can give for him and so for others. This we strive to do, my dear sisters and brothers, in imitation of Christ who lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross. His abandonment of self into the hands of his Father gives credibility to his mission. He not only said but lived the reality of: Not my will, but thine be done. This manifests a dying to self which we are all called to imitate in the whole of our lives and to reflect for others. This is one of the steps necessary to fulfill the Council mandate to live a “life resplendent in faith, hope and charity”. 

            In in context I am reminded of our Marian initiative this year in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Apparition of Mary at Fatima. All are invited to participate in Parish based Marian Consecration Retreats wherein a commitment is made to entrust all that we have and all that we are into the caring hands of our Blessed Mother. Saint John Paul II had as his papal motto, Totus Tuus, which is a very brief Marian Consecration: Mother Mary, I am yours and all I have is yours. May this motto be taken up by every one of us in the centenary year.

            We all renew our own vocational commitment at Easter as we renew our Baptismal commitment.  Ultimately, this is a pledge and a commitment to live a “life resplendent in faith, hope and charity”.  The world in which we live desperately needs the witness of your faith a faith which is known and loved.  This cannot be for us an empty promise.  It must be a promise which we take most seriously and for which we strive with all the love of our hearts.   Others must sense our zeal and love for souls.  The world must sense the seriousness with which we make our annual Baptismal renewal of commitment.

            After the Renewal of Priestly Promises, we then turn to you, the People of God, and ask you to pray for us in these words: “Pray for your Priests, that the Lord may pour out His gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to him, who is the source of salvation.”  My dear people, pray for your priests as I know so many of you do each day. I can assure you that your prayers, today and always, are not only a source of great encouragement, they are essential for the strengthening and sustaining of priests and bishops in their pastoral responsibilities. This prayer for them, for us, is also an indirect prayer for yourselves. In colloquial terms we might say: Lord, make them all that they can be for us so that we will be lead to you and so that we can be more ardently inspired to “make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”