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CHRISM MASS 2021: ‘God is at work here, drawing close to us’, says Archbishop Costelloe

By Matthew Lau

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As the Perth Catholic faithful reconvened for the 2021 Chrism Mass during Holy Week, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB accentuated the indispensable verse of John 3:16 where God sacrificed Jesus for the salvation of humanity.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Perth’s 2020 Chrism Mass was last year cancelled because of COVID-19 health and safety precautions.

It made a return this year at St Mary’s Cathedral on the evening of Tuesday, 30 March at 75 per cent capacity and with SafeWA tracking implemented.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB consecrates the Chrism Oils after pouring in the balsam and perfume on 30 March. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Archbishop Costelloe presided the liturgical ceremony and was joined by concelebrants Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, Vicar General Father Peter Whitely VG, Vicar for Clergy Fr Brian McKenna, Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation Fr Vincent Glynn EV and 170 Archdiocesan priests, assisted by Permanent Deacon Paul Stacy.

The Perth Archbishop’s homily began by lamenting the blood spilt some 2000 years ago when the Chosen People egregiously broke God’s First Covenant with mankind.

“To acknowledge that the divinity of the man Jesus Christ is a dogma of our faith is not to marginalise it or consign it to some dry theological formula: rather it is to invite the whole Church to confidently continue to rejoice in, and wonder at, the inconceivable love of the Father, who ‘loved the world so much that He sent us His only Son’, Archbishop Costelloe said.

Fr Greg Burke OCD and Fr Joseph Laundy bring the Oil of Chrism to the sanctuary at St Mary’s Cathedral on 30 March 2021. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“This presence of God to us in Jesus, which is so much more than God’s very real presence to us in truly holy people, is at the heart of our faith.”

One of the great challenges for the Church in modern times, he continued, is the urgency of how to become a community which, in all its people do, reveals the face of Christ, and warmly invites everyone into a lived experience of His closeness, His friendship, and His love.

“As we bless and consecrate the [Chrism] oils, we are invited to remember that the simple, though eloquent, signs and symbols used in the sacraments – water, oil, wine, bread, gestures, and words – all point beyond themselves to a deeper and very startling truth: God is at work here, drawing close to us and drawing us into a relationship of intimacy with Him.

More than 170 clergymen process up the aisle during the commencement of Chrism Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 30 March 2021. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“The truth is that just as the water, wine, bread, oil, and sacramental words and gestures, point to something deeper, so in an analogous way we ourselves, flesh, and blood men, are also called to point to something deeper: we are called, and empowered by grace, to point to, to ‘sacramentalise’, the presence of Jesus among his people as their Good Shepherd.

Fr Peter Whitely VG, Fr Vincent Glynn EV, Fr Brian McKenna, and Bishop Don Sproxton listen attentively to Archbishop Tim Costelloe’s thought-provoking homily. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“But while the other signs and symbols, by their very objectivity, point unfailingly to the deeper realities we, as fallible human beings, can easily distort or completely obscure the deeper reality, the reality of the closeness of Jesus to his people, by the way we live, and by the words we speak.”

Archbishop Costelloe went on to explain why the combining of the blessing and consecration of the oils and the clergy’s renewal of priestly commitments in one combined liturgy was appropriate.

Priests of the Perth Archdiocese join in with the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament during Chrism Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday, 30 March 2021. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“As we journey over these last few days of Lent towards the commemoration of the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, may his words to his disciples at the Last Supper: ‘do this in memory of me’, remind us all, laity, religious and clergy, that this is what the Lord is asking of us – that we break our bodies and spill our blood for the life of others.

“And may it remind us, who have been called to the priestly ministry, that as we celebrate the Eucharist with and for God’s people, we are committing ourselves to do everything we can to help the people who have been entrusted to our pastoral care to unite with us as we all seek to make our lives a sacrificial gift of love for others,” he added.

“This, after all, is what it means to ‘do this in memory of me’.”