The Chrism Mass is a highlight of our diocesan calendar. The bishop gathers with the priests and lay faithful in the Cathedral; the bishop blesses the Oils which will be used during the celebration of the Sacraments for the coming year while the priests renew their commitment to the priesthood. Bishop Brian’s homily follows:

Just before Lent I went to Beirut for the MONA Caritas Conference, which was a meeting of Catholic Aid Agencies based in the Middle East and North Africa. I was there as a representative of SCIAF. While there I saw several projects for refugees supported by you, through your donations to SCIAF. I was greatly inspired by the example of our fellow Catholics of the Arab lands. In the Middle East Christians form a tiny minority, often within a suspicious but sometimes a hostile environment.

During the Conference we were reminded that Christ revealed the incredible depth of God’s love and service of humanity. The Church was commissioned by Christ to continue his loving ministry in the world and therefore it is natural for the Church, and each Christian, to love and serve people. Furthermore, we were encouraged to see how in an environment hostile to Christianity this very loving of others, for no other reason than to love like Christ, allowed Christians to witness to Christ and make him present in people’s lives.

All of these Caritas Groups were undaunting in their works of charity for people of all Faiths. Through these acts of charity much good is achieved and witness born to Christ. It was asked: “If our efforts are not appreciated should we stop until our efforts are appreciated?” No, was the resounding answer! “We serve because we are Christians – it is natural for us and through it God’s love unfolds.”

Our First Reading was from the prophet Isaiah, who had lived in a time of great social, political and religious crisis. Inspired by the Spirit he spoke of how the people, be filled with God’s Spirit and commissioned as priests, would rebuild the broken Jewish society. The transformation of their society ruined by greed, corruption and war would happen when ordinary people applied God’s values to their everyday circumstances. This conversion of individuals, families, towns and the whole country would benefit the not just the Jewish nation but the pagans also, who would see the benefits of a people living by God’s commandments. All of this will be the fruit of God’s activity.

It seems to me that Christ had frequently prayed over this passage from Isaiah, which he read in the Synagogue in his home town of Nazareth. He was very much aware that he had been consecrated, sent by the Father to redeem humanity.  By the time of Christ, many people had restricted the long hoped for Messiah’s role to transforming society politically and economically. However, for Jesus, the most serious enemy of humanity is sin. Sin can utterly destroy people. Christ came to liberate us from our slavery to sin and false idols (which today we can partly see as the rejection of God for material things).  Jesus will transform people’s lives. Jesus is a prophetic figure who will reach out to society’s lowest and ostracised. The conquering of sin within each one of us individually, and as a Community, will inevitably create a more just society.

In our Second Reading Christ is the perfect example of God’s new Creation. That we are called to follow is wonderful. Brothers and sisters, each one of us shares in Christ’s Priesthood, and we are a Kingly People which serves God, which always means serving each other too. We are part of Christ’s Royal House, and so we share in his authority, his ministry. Christ has not only forgiven us our sins, but he has consecrated us to continue his ministry!

Our diocese of Argyll and the Isles is a diocese of small communities scattered across the West Highlands and Islands within a wider secular culture that is indifferent and sometimes hostile to Faith. Undoubtedly, we are small. What can we do? What difference can we possibly make? At this Mass when the Holy Oils are blessed for the Sacraments – through which Christ will powerfully continue his ministry within our diocese – please remember that through your Baptism, Confirmation and for some of us, Holy Orders, you have been consecrated by God, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit and empowered to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ. I also think that we can be inspired by the example of our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. Small communities can love after the example of Christ as well as big communities; simply by living as devoted disciples – nurturing families, serving others, transforming society – we continue the ministry of Jesus – and everyone befits as well as attracting others to Christ.

Tonight I publically acknowledge and thank our priests who continue the ministry of Jesus through their own priestly ministry: celebrating the Sacraments and bringing healing, hope and joy of countless people both within and beyond the Church. Likewise, I also acknowledge and publicly thank our religious and lay faithful – both for what you do for the Church and for the wider world: in your families, workplace, for neighbours, your parish. Each of you, consecrated to the Lord and Temples of the Holy Spirit do so much good – I sincerely thank you for witnessing to Christ and allowing yourselves to be instruments of his love – and I encourage you to be even more so in the future.