Dear Friends in Christ,
‘Dear brother priests,
Two sentences from that gospel stand out for me, the first “all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him”, and the second, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”
Such was the attraction of Christ’s personality and the power of his words that the synagogue worshippers were transfixed. He read the passage from Isaiah with such authority that they could not take their eyes of him. They realised that he had something worthwhile to say.
As priests we act and minister in his name. As St. Paul puts it, “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2Cor.5:20), we represent him and make his gospel and ministry a reality in our own time. In a short time the oils will be blessed and consecrated – the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens, and the oil of chrism – powerful symbols of the salvation Christ has gained for us, and we priests in a unique way are the channels of that salvation.
Through priestly ordination we have been orientated to Christ, and like that audience in the synagogue at Nazareth, our eyes have, as it were, been fixed on him.
The renewal of our priestly promises, to be made shortly, recommits us to walk that path marked out for us by Christ, for we too have been anointed to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
The oils, transfused with the power of him who is the First-born from the dead and the Ruler of the kings of the earth serve to remind us what we are about as priests. Christ through our ministry still walks the highways and byways of this earth touching the often broken lives of all who await his word of comfort and healing.
Let us then keep our gaze fixed firmly on Christ the Lord.
“This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” As priests we can at times feel daunted by the overwhelming nature of the challenges we face in parish life, but the text from the Apocalypse assures us that there is One who has conquered, and lives forever triumphant with the Father – Christ, the faithful witness.
In a very real sense the battle is over, for sin and death have been vanquished by him who died and rose again. Our priestly vocation is to bring the fruits of Christ’s victory to the faithful people we shepherd. In spite of appearances, there is no need to be despondent or disheartened.
At the Easter Vigil the wonderfully inspiring Exultet will proclaim Christ’s triumph over sin and death. We priests have no need to fear, and like our Master let us too be faithful witnesses. Amen.’
Until next week – As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Apostolic Administrator – Diocese of Lancaster
N.B. Most of the photos are courtesy of Andrew Dennison.