By Kaelanne Jordan
Lovers aren’t always perfect but their intention and action of love demonstrate their commitment to love even in the midst of their imperfections and shortcomings. In a similar way, priests are called to be “lovers”, not perfect, not somehow better than everyone else, but a “lover” who points humanity to the incredible love of God and the manifestation of His love.
“…You think the priest wants to wake up and come and say the Mass…? Or the weekend where he has four or five Masses one after the other saying the same homily over and over and over again? You think that’s an easy way to live? But we do it and we do it with love because that’s what we’ve been called to,” said Archbishop Jason Gordon in his homily at the annual Chrism Mass last Monday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The special liturgy included the blessing of sacred oils for use during the liturgical year in parishes, ecclesial communities, religious congregations and orders, schools and other Catholic organisations. Priests also renew the promises taken at their ordination.
The Archbishop commented that while priests take vows of celibacy, they are allowed special dispensation to kiss. With a mischievous smile on his face as the congregation wondered where he was going with the comment, he provided five instances where this is permissible.
The first, kissing the altar as a sign of reverence and love. “…because it’s Christ Himself that we kiss. Because it is there that we experience the closest bond and the closest union with Christ Himself as bread and wine become body and blood…,” he said.
When priests kiss the Book of the Gospels it represents a sign of their connection with Christ and the belief that these words will set in motion the conversion of hearts to bring people towards God. Then there is the kiss during the Sign of Peace which is a symbolic act of a priest’s primary vocation, to be witnesses to God’s love.
In continuing the discourse, Archbishop Gordon added that the kissing of the feet on Holy Thursday is an act of “tender love” and care in the humblest service to the lowly and marginalised.
Archbishop Gordon explained that the fifth act of love, kissing the cross, which occurs on Good Friday is not a mere representation of Christ’s defeat nor is it an empty gesture. Rather, “by kissing the cross, we remember that we embrace the cross, through the cross that we may find salvation,” and recognise the crucifixion the Church is experiencing presently.
Cognisant that priests are called to serve in “difficult times” where they will be tested and sifted like wheat, the Archbishop maintained that as they renew their priestly promises, they ought to not be discouraged.
Instead, he urged them to recognise that they have given themselves to Him and even imperfect as they are, “God uses us for sacred purposes and God still has a purpose for each and every one of us.”
After communion, delegates approached the sanctuary to receive the now blessed pre-bottled sacred oils from clergy, and then greeted the Archbishop standing near the cathedra.