During the April 10 Chrism Mass commemorating the founding of the priesthood by Christ, Cardinal Donald Wuerl encouraged the hundreds of priests, deacons, seminarians, and religious gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle to reflect on what Pope Francis said were “three great wonders of Jesus’s priesthood: He offered His life for us once and for all; He continues even now to pray for each of us, and He will come again to take us with him.”
The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington; Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; Archdiocese of Washington auxiliary bishops Barry Knestout and Mario Dorsonville; Bishop-elect Roy Campbell; and hundreds of other priests from the Archdiocese of Washington who joined on the altar during the Consecration.
Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the day of ordination, when a priest promises to “unite himself as closely as possible to Christ the High Priest who died on the cross for our salvation.”
During the ordination liturgy, the cardinal noted, the priests prostrate themselves to “symbolize their total giving of self” and then “he gets up into the fullness of the ‘yes’” that constitutes their priestly identity, which Cardinal Wuerl said is “found in our union with Christ.”
“Jesus is our reference point,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “The one we choose to follow, to hear, and above all to love,” recalling how Pope Francis told the seminarians at Saint John Paul II seminary during his visit to Washington that above all else they do, they should adore Christ.
“This is not a generic theological statement,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “This is a fact of personal relationship.”
Just as the second wonder of Christ’s priesthood is that He intercedes for us, Cardinal Wuerl said priests are called to be “a bridge between the sacred and the temporal.”
“Never is a priest more the presence of Jesus – the icon of Christ – than when he stands at the altar to make present once again for us and for our salvation the sacramental re-presentation of the death and resurrection of Christ in the Eucharist,” said Cardinal Wuerl.
It is now this generation of priests’ turn to carry on the healing action of Christ and the Church for the past 20 centuries, Cardinal Wuerl said.
“We should always and be glad that we are called to bring Christ and his Gospel to this age, this culture, this society,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “We are the ministers; Christ is the source of life. But He looks to us, because this is our moment, our time, our world.”
Cardinal Wuerl encouraged the priests to look forward to the third wonder of Jesus’s priesthood: the day when Christ will come again and their task will be concluded. In the meantime, he said, they must continue, “bringing those entrusted to our care to Christ.”
During the liturgy, which celebrates the day when Christ conferred His priesthood on his apostles, the priests renewed the vows that they made on the day of their ordination. Cardinal Wuerl wished that “we all feel in our heart all over again the excitement” that they felt on their ordination day.
Cardinal Wuerl also blessed the oils that will be used to anoint those preparing for Baptism and those who are seriously ill, as well as the Holy Chrism that will be used throughout the year in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, serving as an outward sign of the saving power of the Holy Spirit.
Following the Mass, the blessed oils were distributed to priests to take back to their parishes across the archdiocese.
“May God bless this oil so that all who are anointed with it may be inwardly transformed and come to share in eternal salvation,” Cardinal Wuerl prayed.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl greeted all priests, deacons, and seminarians who attended the Mass, and provided them with a copy of the book Disciples Together on the Road. By choosing that book as a gift, Cardinal Wuerl said he wished to reflect on how the greatest gift the priests give each other every day is their support, and how that solidarity “manifests itself in the way we work together for the good of the archdiocese.”