Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
At the Chrism Mass, I blessed and consecrated the oils that will be used in our churches during the upcoming year: the oil of the infirm, the sacred chrism, and the oil of catechumens. My homily preached that day is available on our diocesan YouTube channel. Today I want to share with you some of the broad themes I discussed at that Mass.
These three oils can serve as a template for our life individually and for the Diocese of Gary. Beyond their sacramental use, they represent healing, mission, and new life. If we are agents of healing, if we remain faithful to our mission to spread the Good News of Jesus, there is no doubt that God will bring new life.
The oil of the infirm is used in the anointing of the sick. It is used to bring about healing of the soul and the body. The Good Samaritan used wine and oil to heal, a precursor of rubbing alcohol and Neosporin: “But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.” (Luke 10:33-34)
More broadly, the oil of the infirm reminds us of our need to be agents of healing, to imitate the Good Samaritan in our world. We live in a suffering world. Some of our wounds are physical, as Covid has made readily apparent. Other wounds run more deeply, as the wound of racism has been exposed more fully over this past year. Many hearts are hurting, and families are suffering. As a local church, we should reflect on how we can reach out to a hurting and suffering world to bring healing.
The Sacred Chrism is used to seal baptism, confer the sacrament of confirmation, and as part of the ordaining of priests and bishops. These oils reinforce the mission entrusted to us. Baptism, confirmation, and holy orders call us to be faithful to our mission to share the love of Jesus with others. All of us are called to participate in this mission, whether priests or deacons, religious or lay. We have a share in the anointing of Jesus, as Jesus makes the words of the prophet Isaiah his own in the temple: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Lk 4:18)
As we are agents of healing and fulfill our mission in the world, we should see even greater use of the oil of catechumens. The oil of catechumens is only used on those who are not baptized but are preparing for baptism. Just as oil was used to limber athletes in biblical times to prepare them for competition, so the oil of catechumens prepares and strengthens those to be baptized to live the Christian life with vigor. We should pray that many more will come to the saving waters of baptism, that our missionary efforts will strengthen families to have their children baptized and draw adults to desire the saving waters of baptism and life with Christ. The oil of catechumens reminds us that the church is ever young as we see new life and growth through the sacrament of baptism.
During the coming year, let us call upon the strength conferred to us in these sacraments. In our own lives and as a local church, my prayer is that we will live the Christian life more fully as exemplified in these holy oils. If we are agents of healing, if we remain faithful to our mission to spread the Good News of Jesus, there is no doubt that God will bring new life. Come Holy Spirit!
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary