This is an oil of gladness; this is an oil of joy! This is the oil that bishops and priests are anointed with, the oil that all of you, the baptized, are anointed with in your Confirmation and Baptism. And those of us who might be seriously sick or preparing for serious surgery are anointed with the Oil of the Sick, which is also an oil of gladness and joy - which I, myself can attest brings a great deal of peace. The first time I received the Oil of the Sick, I could not believe the peace that took hold of my own heart. Even in that circumstance of preparing for serious surgery, the Oil of the Sick brought peace and gladness and joy.
But how does this oil of gladness work? What does this oil do for those who are Baptized, Confirmed, Ordained, or Anointed in their illness? How does it bring gladness and joy? It does so by bringing joy and gladness through leadership in the Church to the people of God. The bishop has a special role of leadership, unworthy though he is. But the bishop didn’t start it – God did. And because he was anointed, the bishop’s role of leadership is a role of joy. And so it is for the priest.
What then do the priests and the bishops do, anointed with that oil of gladness and joy? Above all, the bishop and the priest are leaders in building unity. And how do the bishops and the priests put into action the fruits of that anointing and build unity? They teach the truth of the faith so that all of God’s people can be of one mind. Through their preaching and teaching, the bishops and the priests build unity of mind together. And, when it is truly present, unity of mind brings joy.
The bishops and the priests also celebrate the Eucharist and that brings unity of hearts, which brings joy and peace and gladness. And that is their role as builders of unity – teaching so that there might be a union of minds, sanctifying so that there might be a union of hearts, and governing so that all ministry in the Church works together in harmony. When there is that unity, then the oil of gladness and joy truly brings about joy – the joy that comes from harmony and from unity. People want joy. People want unity. We can even see this in our current political race; but, no politician – not McCain, not Hillary, and not even Barack, can bring about the unity and hope and joy we desire. They can’t. Jesus Christ alone can bring about that unity and joy - Jesus Christ, the one who anoints us with the oil of joy and gladness and imbues us with his Holy Sprit.
In this connection, I have to say something about the office of the bishop. It is hard for the bishop to talk about the duties of his own office, because it always seems that when he does that, he is acting in his own self-interest. I don’t want it to seem that way and I don’t talk about being a bishop for personal reasons. But, on this night of the Chrism Mass, I have to reflect about the office of bishop – as someone who, himself, wanted to be a teacher at a seminary. I have to talk about it first because the priest carries out his duty of sanctifying through the Sacrifice of the Altar. Every Altar of any diocese belongs to the bishop of that diocese. Every Altar is his, through his authority, given by Jesus Christ. And when the priest comes to the Altar, he comes as the representative of Christ and as the delegate of the bishop. Do I think that I am giving the priests a big gift, because they come to the Altar? No, I need them desperately to come to the Altar. I need you, my brother priests, desperately to come to the altar; I don’t think I’m giving any big gift. The Church would not “work” if you didn’t selflessly come to the Altar every day! And I need you to do that. But, the Altar is the bishop’s Altar to give. He doesn’t give it out of the “goodness of his heart;” he gives it out of his deep need for help from the priest.
In the same way, the pulpit, the tool of teaching, is the bishop’s to give. Again, the bishop doesn’t give the pulpit out of the “goodness of his heart!” He gives it out of his deep need for priests to teach the Truth. And in the same way, every confessional in the diocese belongs to the bishop. I don’t give the faculty to hear confessions, the authority to forgive sins, because I’m generous; the bishop does so because he could not possibly, himself, be the minister of God’s Mercy to every person in the diocese who needs mercy.