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Christ has given His Church a mission through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Clergy and laypeople must work and pray together in order for that mission — sanctifying souls and preparing them for heaven — to be fulfilled.
“It was Christ’s intention at the Last Supper that we may all be one,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight noted in his homily for this year’s Chrism Mass.
“By our supporting of one another and our mutual respect for our different responsibilities in the Body of Christ, our communion with God and one another is strengthened,” he said.
That communion and shared identity is bound up in Jesus, Who is “the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Priest, Prophet and the King,” said Bishop McKnight.
“His disciples call themselves Christians to affirm this belief and share His mission,” the bishop pointed out. “And in our Catholic Church, we are assisted with anointing with sacred oils, which serve as (an outward sign) of the interior anointing we receive from the Holy Spirit.”
The Chrism Mass, offered annually during or near Holy Week in each diocese, celebrates the essential bond between the Sacraments, the people who receive them and those who administer them throughout the year.
About 200 clergy, religious and laypeople attended the Chrism Mass, which Bishop McKnight celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week with his predecessor, Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, and priests of the diocese.
Seminarians served in various liturgical roles.
Bishop McKnight blessed the holy oils and consecrated the Sacred Chrism that will be used to administer sacraments throughout the diocese in the upcoming year.
He also joined his predecessor and the priests in renewing the promises they made at their priestly ordination.
He called to mind this year’s priestly jubilarians: Father Frederick Elskamp and Father George Kramer, who are observing their 60th priestly anniversaries this year; Father Louis Dorn, Father Richard Frank and Monsignor Michael Wilbers, who are observing their 50th anniversaries; and Father William Peckman, whose 25th priestly anniversary is this year.
The bishop noted that collectively, the jubilarians have given “295 years of service to God’s holy people.”
“These men are all very different but heard the call of the same Lord,” he stated. “We honor the Priesthood today and ask your prayers for them.”
“The hope we bear”
Bishop McKnight spoke of holy anointings throughout history and how Christians are called to show their unity in Christ through worship, teaching and concrete acts of charity in His name.
He talked about how clergy and laypeople must work together to tackle the problems the Church is facing in the world, in this country and in this diocese.
“We need to build a stronger culture of hope and mutual respect so that we may deal more effectively with the challenge of a declining number of active priests, the pressures on families, the challenges our young adults face, and the moral decay of our society,” he said.
He pointed out that the ministerial Priesthood makes no sense without the laity, whom priests are called to serve.
He said the anointing of each priest’s hands with Sacred Chrism at his ordination signifies the spiritual powers — the interior anointing — each priest receives to build up the Church and to “encourage, inspire, motivate and facilitate” the laity’s participation in the Church’s mission.
He reminded the priests that although their spirituality is liturgical, it is influenced by their daily interactions with the faithful, “especially family, marriage and youth or young adult ministry.”
“We are charged with being bearers of hope in a world sometimes darkened by confusion, discouragement or even despair,” he said.
“The hope we bear to people burdened by sin and weighed down by the demands of life — especially hectic family life — is the hope of the Resurrection and our future incorporation into the mystery of the eternal heavenly banquet,” he said.
Sister Bernita Wasinger and Sister Susan Renner, both of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, presented the bread and wine in the offertory procession
Four deacons presented the oils for blessing and consecration.
Deacon Bruce Mobley, who assists the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Macon and serves as diocesan lay director of Teens Encounter Christ, presented the Oil for the Catechumens.
Deacon Edwin Pacheco, who assists the pastor of Mary Immaculate Parish in Kirksville and is involved in diocesan Hispanic ministry, presented the Oil for the Sick.
Deacon John L. Neudecker, who assists the pastor of St. Peter Parish in Fulton, presented the fragrant balsam for the Oil for Chrism.
Deacon Daniel Ramsey, who assists the pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Holts Summit, presented the Oil for Chrism.
To bring glad tidings
The Oil of Catechumens is used for infants during the baptismal ceremony, and for the anointing of the elect during the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as they prepare to be baptized.
It designates all members of the Church as learners and gives them a protecting strength against evil.
The Oil of the Sick is used for healing in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
Sacred Chrism, named for Christ, is used in Baptism, as well as Confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops and the dedication of churches and altars.
Bishop McKnight told the assembly that the blessing of the three sacred oils should remind everyone of his or her own anointing by the Holy Spirit and to share in Christ’s mission to teach, sanctify and govern.
“Our supernatural anointings with the Holy Spirit make it possible for us to teach the truth of God’s love for the world, seen in the death and resurrection of His beloved Son,” the bishop stated. “And we are able to manifest healing through our works of charity and service.”
“Whenever we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless; whenever we defend the weak and vulnerable, grant forgiveness to the penitent, provide medicine and care to the sick, comfort to the grief-stricken, and hope to those in time of despair, we bring glad tidings to the poor and announce the Kingdom of God,” he said.
Charity and hope
After the priests renewed their promises, Bishop McKnight asked the laypeople to “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.”
He also asked the people to pray for him to be faithful to the office of bishop and to be conformed more fully into the image of Christ, “the Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and Servant of all.”
He noted that in administering the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, priests ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen and heal those who are being anointed “in order to mend their bodies, refresh their spirits, restore their broken relationship with God and to heal our fractured humanity.”
“Their spiritual healing is the primary aim, which includes the forgiveness of sins,” he said.
This ministry, Bishop McKnight stated, represents everything else priests do to manifest the Kingdom of God through charitable and merciful works.
“Our acts of charity and mercy are concrete expressions of our hope in the Resurrection,” he said.
The Chrism Mass is usually celebrated in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City but was offered this year in St. Andrew Church in Holts Summit while the Cathedral is being extensively repaired and renovated.
Bishop McKnight stated that “God willing,” Sacred Chrism from this year’s Chrism Mass will be used to consecrate the new altar and walls of the Cathedral upon its completion.