BY DOMINIQUE JOHNSON
Every year the priests of the Diocese of Juneau gather in the capital city for the Chrism Mass to renew their promise to serve the people of the diocese and to receive the three oils, blessed by the bishop, that will be administered throughout the year.
This year was different for the diocese, as the Bishop’s chair is currently vacant. However, it created the opportunity for Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of the Archdiocese of Anchorage to make his first visit to Southeast Alaska as Archbishop.
Archbishop Etienne began his homily sharing how the Chrism Mass is one of his favorite celebrations of the year, after Holy Thursday and Easter vigil, because the liturgies “Speak of the Nature of the Church.” He continued his homily saying that with the gathering of the body of our diocese, our priests, deacons, religious and the people of the diocese “It’s an opportunity to give thanks to God for the way he has blessed us, in his son Jesus Christ.”
The Archbishop then asked the congregation in the Cathedral if they had ever been sick, and experienced a sickness that included the chills — most laughingly replied yes. He then continued explaining that during the Chrism Mass he blesses the oil of the infirm and how the Lord heals us. He said, “I think Pope Francis fundamentally recognizes a great illness in the world today and that’s why he is sending us to the peripheries and reminding us of the importance of charity; he’s reminding us of the importance of being fundamentally human.” Archbishop Etienne then explained that in being human we need love, importantly God’s love and that our lives will be fulfilled when we are able to love others in return. He then said that the illness that Pope Francis sees in our world today “is this coldness of heart, this inability in our society today to love.”
The Archbishop then returned to the example of being sick with the chills and how your hand or feet are the last things that get warm “to get that blood pumped out to the peripheries…in essence it’s a matter of the heart working well enough to pump that blood out” to the outlying areas of the body. He then explained that the heart of the Church needs to be renewed and to go out to the peripheries and reach out to those who don’t know love.
Archbishop concluded his homily reminding the priests, deacons, religious and people of the Diocese of Juneau “of the unity this local church is called to” and “the mission of the church to go into the world, to be aware of those most in need…to bring the nearness of God to the world.”