All I claim to know is about Jesus as the crucified Lord

Chrism Mass

Brothers, as we gather for our annual Chrism Mass we are aware that in this liturgy as well as the blessing of the Holy Oils we will renew our priestly promises. It is a moment each year in which, at this most sacred time, we renew our commitment to be priests in faithful adherence to the Lord.

We renew our priestly promises to the Lord, who as the Lamb of God, suffered and died that humanity might be redeemed. We, as priests, are both the proclaimers of this salvation and the instruments of its effect in the life of believers through our sacramental ministry.

Tonight, I would like to focus on one particular, and indeed central, aspect of our ministry – that of being preachers of the Gospel. This year, as we are exploring how our parish communities can develop a missionary outlook, the place and role of our preaching deserves special attention.

The Paschal Mystery, as we know, is at the very heart of the Christian faith and the focus of the proclamation of the Church to the world. The Church proclaims that Jesus, Son of God, suffered and died in a sacrificial offering of himself for the redemption of humanity. We, as preachers, can never wander far from this central mystery of our faith. It is the mystery we express at every Mass when we invite people to profess their faith. Thus, we declare in one of the acclamations: “Save us, Saviour of the World, for by your cross and resurrection you have set us free”.

St Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, expresses his realisation that his primary task was to preach the crucified Christ. He had attempted to argue the case for Christianity to the philosophers at the Aeropagus and failed. He realised that intellectual argument for Christianity was not the way to go. Thus, leaving Athens and making his way to Corinth, not without, as he said, a little “fear and trembling” (I Cor 2:3), he resolved that all he would preach was about the significance of the crucifixion.

He had come to realise that the key to preaching was not to rely upon the skills of oratory or the arguments of philosophy, but he was prepared to say that “the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus and only about him as the crucified Christ” (I Cor 2:2)

As a preacher this made him very vulnerable and he was only too aware that this message would be met with incredulity by both Jews and Greeks, but he knew that this was the only course open to him. He knew that the cross was, as he said, “the wisdom and power of God” (see I Cor 1:22-25).

He understood that the message of Christianity was about the salvation won for us by Christ on Calvary and that his task was to preach this and call on people to embrace what Jesus had done for them.   

He understood also that a person coming to faith must be prepared in their own way to enter into the process of dying and rising. This was expressed in the rite of Christian Baptism, as he said in the Letter to the Romans, “You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised into his death”. He then adds, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life” (Rom 6:3-4). It was a dying to an old way of life and rising to a new life.

This is precisely what Jesus himself had taught: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16: 24-25).

Calling a person to faith means calling on them to enter into a process of dying and rising. St Paul in his Letter to the Galatians summed up his own life in these words, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). He lives now not for himself, but for Christ. This is the way for all Christians.

St Paul embraced the Paschal Mystery fully and completely. His preaching was simply a reflection of his life. Thus, in his Letter to the Galatians he declared, “But far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14).

The Gospel that we preach is the good news of our salvation. In our preaching we are inviting people to embrace the paschal mystery of dying and rising. Yes, it is true, it is a hard message for many to accept, and we are tempted to soften our message and make it more palatable to the sensibilities of our time. St Paul warned Timothy that people will seek out a soft and attractive message, “The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes” (I Tim 4:3).

Brothers, in this most sacred of times, let us firstly desire to enter more completely into the paschal mystery that we might live personally the dying and rising. Then, let us resolve with St Paul that in my preaching all I claim to know is about Jesus and him as the crucified Lord.  

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Tuesday, 26 March 2024

Tags: Homilies