By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published April 16, 2009
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
With more than 160 of his brother priests gathered with him for the Chrism Mass, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory took this Scripture passage from Isaiah and the Gospel of Luke and reflected upon the hope contained in it, even as evening twilight filtered through the stained glass of the Cathedral of Christ the King and huge silver urns filled for the blessing of oils gleamed and shone.
The Mass was celebrated Tuesday of Holy Week, April 7, at the end of a day the priests spent together in retreat. It was followed by a dinner they had together in the parish hall.
Some of them may have been priests for one year, some for five, some for 60, Archbishop Gregory said, as he looked out at the front half of the Cathedral filled with this diverse community of men, unique in every way, singular in their vocation.
But although each year lets them learn more about the priesthood of Jesus Christ, it is “an unfathomable treasure that we have all only begun to explore,” he emphasized.
Since becoming archbishop of Atlanta, he noted, this is the fifth time he has gathered with them at the Chrism Mass, where priests renew their solemn promises and oils to be used in the sacraments of the church over the coming year in the archdiocese are blessed and consecrated.
“You all now know and can easily confirm that your archbishop has a great many personal faults—most of you can specify some of my mistakes made during these past four plus years,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Some of you can enumerate the personal occasions when I may have failed to listen to you, or did not understand you, or perhaps did not respond to you in love.”
Likewise, he added, “I now know some of your secret imperfections, I have come upon information about some of your private behavior, and I have heard of some of the occasions when you may have failed to serve our people with Christ-like generosity, compassion and charity.”
But he observed, “We know more about each other, but we don’t yet know all that there is to know about each other. We don’t really know the wonder that God has placed within each heart and soul of those here present. We do not fully know the goodness that we are all capable of in this year that lies ahead.”
The Scripture speaks of “a new year of hope for those who are held captive,” he said.
“The past can be perhaps the greatest prison of all for any of us,” he continued. “Each one of us occasionally may believe that the past really is the future—that yesterday determines tomorrow—that history is, in actual fact, the future.”
However, “Jesus … dares to call us to a tomorrow—a year of favor—that is far more than yesterday … that is better and more perfect than yesterday.”
Isaiah spoke at a time when the ancient Assyrian empire threatened, but priests today have different fears, he said. Will there be enough priests tomorrow to serve the church, will the financial downturn sink parish plans to build or hopes of retirement?
“No matter what has happened before, the tomorrow that Christ announces will be better than yesterday and more perfect than today,” Archbishop Gregory said. “We are a people of promise and hope. We are the ones chosen by the Lord and his promise never fails.”