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Benedict XVI's Homily at Chrism Mass

4/13/2006 - 3:50 AM PST

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"The Lord Makes Us Priests His Friends"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 13, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered this morning during the Chrism Mass, over which he presided in St. Peter's Basilica. In the course of the Mass, after the renewal of priestly promises, the oil of the catechumens, and of the sick, and the chrism were blessed.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Maundy Thursday is the day in which the Lord gave the Twelve the priestly duty to celebrate, with bread and wine, the sacrament of his Body and Blood until his return. Replacing the paschal lamb and all sacrifices of the Old Covenant with the gift of his Body and Blood, the gift of himself.

Thus the new worship is based on the fact that, above all, God gives us a gift, and we, filled with this gift, become his: Creation turns to the Creator. So the priesthood also became something new: It is no longer a question of descent, but it is an encountering of oneself in the mystery of Jesus Christ. He is always the One who gives and who draws us to himself. Only he can say: "This is my Body -- this is my Blood."

The mystery of the Church's priesthood lies in the fact that we, miserable human beings, in virtue of the sacrament are able to speak with his I: "in persona Christi." He wishes to exercise his priesthood through us. We recall this moving mystery, which touches us again in every celebration of the sacrament, in a very particular way on Maundy Thursday. Because the everyday does not spoil what is great and mysterious, we are in need of a similar specific remembrance, we are in need of a return to that hour in which he placed his hands on us and made us participants of this mystery.

Therefore, let us again reflect on the signs in which the sacrament was given to us. At the center is the very ancient gesture of the imposition of hands, with which he took possession of me saying: "You belong to me." But along with this, he also said: "You are under the protection of my hands. You are under the protection of my heart. You are kept in the palm of my hand and because of this, you find yourself in the vastness of my love. Remain in the space of my hands and give me yours."

Let us remember, then that our hands were anointed with oil which is the sign of the Holy Spirit and of his strength. Why precisely the hands? Man's hand is the instrument of his action, it is the symbol of his capacity to face the world, to the point of "taking it in hand." The Lord has placed his hands on us and he now wants our hands so that they will become his hands in the world. He wants them to no longer be instruments to take things, men, the world for us, to reduce it to our possession, but that, instead, they transmit his divine touch, being at the service of his love.

He wishes them to be instruments of service and therefore expression of the mission of the whole person that makes himself his guarantor and takes him to men. If man's hands represent symbolically his faculties and, in general, technology as power to dispose of the world, now the anointed hands must be a sign of his capacity to give, of creativity in molding the world with love -- and for this we have need, without a doubt, of the Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament anointing is the sign of the assumption of service: The king, prophet, priest does and gives more than that which comes from himself. In a certain sense, he is expropriated from himself in the function of a service, in which he places himself at the disposition of someone greater than himself.

If Jesus appears today in the Gospel as the Anointed One of God, the Christ, this means precisely that he acts by the mission of the Father in unity with the Holy Spirit and that, in this way, he gives the world a new royalty, a new priesthood, a new way of being prophet, who does not seek himself, but lives for him, in view of which the world was created. Let us place our hands again today at his disposition and let us ask him to always take us by the hand and guide us again.

In the sacramental gesture of the imposition of hands by the bishop, the Lord himself was imposing his hands on us. This sacramental sign reassume a whole existential course. On one occasion, like the first disciples, we encountered the Lord and heard his word: "Follow me!" Perhaps initially we followed him in a rather uncertain way, drawing back and wondering if it was really our way.

And at some point of the journey perhaps we had Peter's experience after the miraculous catch, we were, that is, struck by his grandeur, the greatness of the task and the insufficiency of our poor person, to the point of wanting to go back: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8). But then he, with great kindness, took us by the hand, drew us to himself ...

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