My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
We are now in the fourth week of Lent, and the great solemnity of Easter soon will be celebrated. However, before the glory of Easter dispels the darkness of Golgotha, we have the liturgies of Holy Week, which celebrate the central tenets of our Catholic faith and so very poignantly capture each person’s intended relationship with God. At the same time, we gain an insight about how quickly one can reject God. Those joyous salutations of the crowds upon Christ’s messianic entry into Jerusalem — “Blessed is he who comes as king in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38) — only a few days later became the deadly cries, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). Human promises and loyalties can become very fragile, and change rather quickly and unexpectedly.
Keeping commitments, promises and vows has always been a great challenge, especially in times of great difficulty and trial. To remain faithful to God and to His church amid scandal requires a strong act of faith rooted in our personal relationship with Jesus. Palm Sunday begins Holy Week with the hosannas praising Jesus, but before the glory of Easter shines forth, there will be Christ’s agony in the garden, His humiliation, the gross acts of inhumanity against Him, His via crucis and crucifixion. Through it all, Christ remains faithful to the mission of His heavenly Father; throughout this painful ordeal, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, remains faithful: “Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother …” (John 19:25). Here we have in the midst of the great tragedy of Calvary extraordinary examples of fidelity and commitment!
During the solemn Mass of Chrism on April 16, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart at 7 p.m., our priests with their bishop will renew promises made at the time of ordination to serve the Lord faithfully in imitation of the fidelity and commitment of the Eternal High Priest. Christ’s ongoing, continuous commitment to us is represented in the blessing at this Mass of the oils used in the Church’s priestly and episcopal ministries:
The “Oil of the Sick” to become “a safeguard for body, soul and spirit,” asking God to accompany and to heal our sick sisters and brothers “from all pain, all infirmity, and all sickness.”
The “Oil of Catechumens” to “grant courage to the catechumens who will be anointed with it” in preparation for their baptism.
The “Oil for the Holy Chrism” to become “a sacred sign of perfect salvation and life for those to be made new in the spiritual waters of baptism” and “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” at confirmation. Those ordained to the priesthood and episcopacy are anointed with this chrism for service in humility to God’s people in imitation of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, from whose “holy name it has received the name of Chrism” (compare to The Roman Pontifical, in accord with The Roman Missal; Third Typical Edition, Rites of the Blessing of Oils and the Consecration of Chrism).
I take this opportunity to invite all the faithful of our diocese to attend this very moving Holy Week ceremony.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the remarkable and wondrous fulfillment of Christ’s promise to remain with us always, the institution of the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist joined to the sacrament of the order of priesthood.
The holy sacrifice of the Mass has been offered in every conceivable circumstance affecting God’s people: in times of war, in times of natural disasters, for personal and family needs, at moments of joy and of sorrow, at the celebrations of the sacraments, in hospitals and in nursing homes, and in prisons. Even in the most desperate circumstances, humanity sees heaven, and the limits and restriction of this life are transcended by the presence of Christ in the most holy Eucharist: Christ wanting to be with us every moment of our lives, lifting us up again and again whenever we stumble. “In the Eucharist, Christ gives us His humanity to be our nourishment so that our humanity, receiving His, may be nourished by His divinity” (Lawrence Feingold, The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion, p. 24). Already at that Last Supper, with the dread of Good Friday looming over Him, Christ gives us in the Eucharist a prefiguration of Easter joy. While the joy of the resurrection opens up heaven’s gates to fallen humanity, the earthly journey of humanity finds its joy in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist accompanying us along this earthly passage to eternity.
Was ever a promise more perfectly kept than at Golgotha, when, motivated by an intense love for us, Christ sacrificed His very life for our salvation? “Of course, His whole life was a continual manifestation of love for us: He became flesh for love of us. However, the full extent of that love was revealed only in His suffering and death on the Cross, offered for our redemption” (Ibid., p. 7). Indeed, Christ is the promise perfectly kept!
I wish you a very blessed continuation of the Lenten season and a joyous and holy Easter. I pray you will participate in the beautiful Holy Week liturgies.
Invoking the intercession of Our Mother Mary and our diocesan patron, St. John Fisher, I remain, with a constant remembrance of you in prayer,
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
+Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester