Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki consecrates the oils at the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, March 30, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. (Photo by David Bernacchi)

Noting that the Chrism Mass of 2020 was delayed until September due to the coronavirus pandemic, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki began his homily Tuesday, March 30, by rejoicing in a bit of “progress” — even though this year’s Chrism Mass was socially distanced and invitation-only, it was held on the traditional date, Tuesday of Holy Week.

“Although we are still exercising an abundance of precaution, we have returned to the normal date of the celebration,” said the archbishop. “Progress.”

Calling the annual Chrism mass, held at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, “one of the most anticipated and joyful experiences of our local community,” the archbishop said, “it is a statement of our witness to the faith and the unity of the various ministries that compose the body of Christ.”

The Chrism Mass is often held on Holy Thursday, because of its close associations with the institution of the ministerial priesthood, but it is traditional within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to hold the Mass earlier in the week. The Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism that are consecrated at the Mass are then distributed to parishes throughout the archdiocese later in the week.

“It is the blessing and consecration of the sacred oils that reminds us of the sacramental grace that is God’s activity among us through the action of the Church’s ministers,” said Archbishop Listecki.

Though we are still in many ways separated as a Body of Christ due to the coronavirus pandemic, the archbishop said “the work of the Church and the source of grace continues, and we acknowledge that God is using us as an instrument of His presence even in the most difficult and trying times.”

The great insight provided by this pandemic, said the archbishop, is “that our focus must always, always be on the Lord.”

“It is obvious to me that we often forget our ultimate destiny is the kingdom prepared for us, but that is except when the ultimate moments confront us personally,” he said. “Usually we forget until there’s an illness or there’s been a personal loss of loved ones. But, during the pandemic, we’ve been confronted collectively and we have been reminded that we have been made by God, for God. We often demand that God responds to our wants and needs, failing to understand that we must live for God, especially in the face of the crosses we must bear.”

The oils consecrated in the Cathedral at the Chrism Mass will, in turn, be used to consecrate the men and women, objects and places they anoint, thus setting them all apart as instruments of God.

“These oils, distributed to our various parishes, will affirm the trust we have in the sacred actions of God and his grace offered through His church,” said the archbishop. “We the Church are his mystical body, the great sacrament of the new law offering his grace to the whole world.”

Though we are living in “uncertain times” in which “many are caught in the grips of fear … troubled by the wounds of the modern world,” we must be careful not to “become immobilized,” the archbishop cautioned.

“The world needs the voice and clarity of the Gospel and the Church’s teachings. In a sense, we’ve been held captive, and Jesus proclaims our freedom through the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah: ‘the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’”

“We must be that voice of confidence, trusting in the words of the Lord and proclaiming that God loves us,” said the archbishop.

Last year, the archbishop closed his homily with a prayer from St. Francis de Sales — “arguably the secondary patron of the archdiocese,” he said — and he chose to do so again this year. “‘As we navigate through the challenges ahead, let us again listen to the words of the spiritual father and his wisdom: Do not look forward to the changes and chances of life with fear. Rather look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God, to whom you belong, will, in his love, enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to his dear hand and he will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you lovingly in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same eternal father who takes care of you will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either he will shield you from sufferings, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then. Put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations. Amen.’”