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‘Just be serene and trust in God’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 23, 2016

Bishop LaValley’s homily for the 2016 Chrism Mass March 17 at St. Mary’s Cathedral

After informing me of Pope Benedict’s decision to appoint me Bishop of Ogdensburg, Archbishop Sambi Chrism Masscounseled me:  “Just be serene and trust in God.”   I thought, Serene?  I wondered, why in the world did he give me those words of advice?  Did he know something about me?  Did he think, somehow, that I was un-serene-like? Google says that the word ‘serene’ means: calm, composed, tranquil, untroubled, at ease.

How can a person be passionate, yet calm?  Can a person be zealous for the Lord yet composed and tranquil?  When confronted with society’s veritable tsunami of behaviors and decisions that smack of indifference and irreverence for the sacred, are we to remain untroubled and at ease?  Maybe, we can see that serenity and zeal are not irreconcilable differences when we come to realize that our world, our families have a tremendous need for the Lord’s anointing.  From the most ancient of days, anointings brought healing and strength. Our folks need the anointings of our sacraments. Sacraments are focused moments of real encounter with the Risen Christ. 

Healing, strength, divine encounter—all ingredients necessary for one to be “serene.”  As you know, anointings and sacraments are fundamental dimensions of the Church’s Chrism Mass.   This Mass of the oils equips us all for serenity in a world of such danger, confusion and uncertainty, in a nation where the political arena has become an arena, all right—a shameful one.  Oh, the gift of Serenity.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings…”

In many ways, we are losing the sense of awe for the Lord’s Spirit.  Our wonder and awe can fade in life’s routine and in life lived at breakneck speed.  Tragically, sometimes the sacraments are seen as casual occasions of minimal import, ho-hum events with little appreciation of the privileged grace-filled moment of encounter with the divine—truly mystical moments.  An underlying theme of our diocesan priorities is to heighten our awe for, and therefore, our active participation in the Sacraments. 

Creating a Culture of Vocations...
...is about increasing our awareness of the tremendous gift we have in the Sacrament of Baptism.  Our baptismal anointings, as the prayers of the ritual tell us, help us accept the challenge of Christian living and are signs of inward transformation. So, as we address this priority, every person in our parish family is challenged to reflect on and to live the universal call to holiness, inviting our neighbor to join us on the journey.  That’s what our Vocations Summit, Inspire Called to Love, in Lake Placid later this fall, is all about.  This priority also places before us the great urgency we have in the Diocese for even greater efforts to grow and tend to Church vocations. 

This Chrism Mass we pray in a particular way for our priests here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg whose pastoral ministry continues to inspire us all.  For the sacraments to be made available to a world in desperate need of them, we rely on our priests whose anointed hands bless us and confect for us Jesus’ very Body and Blood, food for the journey.  Particularly with so many young faces here today, I ask our youth to pray for open ears and generous hearts to consider a Church vocation.

Strengthening Faith Formation in Family Life ...
...is crucial to the building up of the Body of Christ.  Solid Catholic instruction, and the preparation for and celebration of the sacraments, enriched through ongoing adult faith formation, makes for a vibrant Church, a mission-oriented parish and holy women and men.  When embraced, the anointings of our Baptism and Confirmation, empower us with the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit to follow Jesus.  As we have been liberally lathered with the sacramental oils, we have been blessed and charged as disciples in mission.   So, we reach out to our neighbors, especially the vulnerable, the hurting and poor.

This Jubilee of Mercy, we are keenly aware of the truly awe-some gift we have in the Sacrament of Penance.  Through The Light is On, our recent 24 hours with the Lord, and other local pastoral efforts, the healing balm of God’s mercy and forgiveness is experienced.  When Pope Francis introduced this Jubilee of Mercy, he wrote:  “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.”  God’s mercy is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality.”  My sisters and brothers, we are determined to make the sacramental graces and anointings of our God even more available from a Church that is approachable and compassionate.

Building Parishes with Living Stones...
... means we are keeping hope alive, inaugurating a new springtime in the life of our Church.  As we continue to survey the soul-scape across our expansive diocese, we will ensure the faithful that the sacraments are available to them, particularly Holy Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation.  Our parish censuses have been truly remarkable occasions of grace for both visitor and neighbor.  With the experience under our belts and the data in our hands, the Door of Mercy has been opened and the Church goes out and invites back through that door, those who have been estranged from our parish families.

My dear brother priests, to dare to trust oneself completely to God’s word, is still today, and always will be, the indispensable condition of apostleship, of the call to priestly service.  We, like Peter, shall always have to cast the nets over again and again at His word even when it might seem pointless.  God’s Word must be held more real than statistics or public opinion.  As Pope Francis urges: “Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new.”  Thank you for warding off destructive criticism or an indifference that might inhibit zeal in our priestly ministry.  Thank you for your prayerful support and your zealous pastoral ministry.

My sisters and brothers all, let us continue to whet our appetite for the sacred and reawaken the deep longing which exists in every human heart for what is above.  We have been anointed. So, we have within us the strength and the grace to evoke the mystic grandeur of the Call, “Follow Me” and arouse in all our hearts the desire to be transformed in Christ. We continue to be nourished by the sacraments and so become clay in in our Father’s hands.  Our energies will not dissipate, our resolve lessen, nor our faith wane because the Church of Ogdensburg continues to be Christ-led, Christ-fed, and Hope-filled.  So, yes, we will just be serene and trust!

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