Chrism Mass Homily
[The quotes from others were found online. I apologize if the attribution is incorrect]
There was a man who was in real need of an “attitude adjustment.” It seemed that all of the things he was doing in life were going wrong and every decision he made was the wrong one and this was having dire effects on his attitude. So his friends recommended that he take a vacation to realize a little adjustment. The day came for him to leave when he got a call from the Delta Airlines saying his direct flight had been cancelled and they were booking him on a flight that had three layovers and what was to have been a three hour flight was now a 12 hour marathon to which the man said, “I knew I should have flown on Southwest Airlines. I just can’t make the right choice when it comes to anything.” So the taxicab comes and collects him and the cab driver says, “which way to the airport, through the city or around the city?” to which the man says, “Ah, it’s midday. Through the city.” Well they end up in a monumental traffic jam in the middle of the city while the radio says the way around the city was clear. Once again, the man is furious. “Every choice I make is the wrong one.” So he misses his plane but they book him on a red-eye flight and he has to hang around the airport for 5 hours. When the flight finally takes off, the stewardess comes around with the food and says, “Would you like chicken or fish?” The man chooses fish. Bad choice as everyone who eats the fish gets violently ill. The man in his wretchedness is saying to himself, “Why didn’t I choose the chicken, why didn’t I choose the chicken” when suddenly, there is huge boom and a gaping hole opens in the side of the plane and the man is blown out, seat and all into the wild blue yonder. He screams out in his terror, “St. Francis save me, St. Francis save me,” when, miracle of miracles, this giant hand reaches down from heaven and grabs the chair. The man is thinking, “Oh, thank god, thank god,” when a voice from heaven says, “Which one, St. Francis of Assisi or St. Francis de Sales?”
There are days in all of our lives when nothing seems to be going right, days, as a result, when our attitudes may not be the best. I remember one time I was in one of those moods and a priest friend of mine back in Boston said, “You know what? You need to go home, get back into bed, and get up on the other side of the bed because you sure got up on the wrong side!” Sometimes when we are really in a funk it can last a long time. Then we really need an “attitude adjustment.”
Having the right attitude is so important in life. One Christian pastor has this to say about attitude. “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of Attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts, than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do, than appearances, than giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the Attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one thing we have, and that is our Attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” [quote from Pastor Chuck Swindol]
Now, why am I talking about the importance of attitude and the need sometimes for an “attitude adjustment at this Chrism Mass?” Because I think that this celebration gives us an opportunity to renew our Christian and our priestly attitudes, the 90 % of how we laity, religious, and priests respond to the challenges and vagaries of life. I would venture to guess that most of us have a pretty good attitude when it comes to life and that we are not in need of a major overhaul. Still, it’s always good to hear the “good news” once again and to be re-energized ever more deeply into the life of faith, to have a little attitude adjustment. Did you hear the ‘Good News” that rang so clearly in this evenings readings? – “Glad tidings to the lowly, liberty to the captives, comfort to all who mourn, a diadem instead of ashes, and a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.” “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever.” And finally, “ “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Boy, I don’t know about you, but this just brings forth in me an attitude of hope and gladness. In being reminded of the promises that were made through the prophets, that were then fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, and are even now being manifested in the Spirit and in the Church, we hear the “today” of Jesus in the past and know it is the “today” of Jesus Christ still present. Today this passage is fulfilled in our hearing! Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. But today! But, but … how often we do we really live in the today of salvation?
Some of you may have heard me tell this story before but I was once at a convocation of priests in “Bahstan.” We’re all sitting there. It’s after lunch and a lot of the guys are starting to nod off. They’re all stretched out, leaning back in their seats, legs out so you can see their white socks, their arms folded over their dark blue wind breakers. Some of us are paying attention, some are trying to. You know how those convocations can go. Suddenly, the priest who was speaking to us gets real animated (I think he was trying to rouse the troops) he pauses and then asks the question, “Do you believe that the promise of salvation offered by Jesus Christ is present today?” and we all kind of nodded our heads and said, “Well, yeah, I guess. Yeah, I think so.” And he said, “Well, for goodness sake, will you look and act like it once in a while!”
Someone once asked, “Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?”* Is my attitude worth catching? One Christian preacher that I love to listen to talks about the Christian having “an attitude of gratitude,” that our basic spiritual and attitudinal foundation is one of thankfulness for all that God has given us and all that has been accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ and that springs forth in gratitude. “Thank you Jesus!” When I do spiritual direction with people, they sometimes talk about how they seem to be stuck in their prayer, that it seems “dry” or that “nothing seems to be happening.” My response is, “What’s your starting point? Is it one of gratitude and thankfulness? Is it living in the ‘good news’?” It’s amazing how ‘unstuck’ you become when you start in gratitude.
Our positive Christian attitude, our attitude of gratitude is so important if we are to be the “leaven” for the world, if we are to build up the kingdom of God. No one wants to join a church if everyone is dour and gloomy. Think about it: “Look at these people. They seem so dull and boring and sad. Some of them even look angry! Wow! Let’s join worship here! This ought to really help us get through the week!” Besides, isn’t it a lot more fun to respond to life positively rather than negatively? Here’s another great quote about attitudes: “a positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”**
[Them] “Life stinks!”
[Us] “No, life’s great! Praise the Lord!”
“The world is going to hell in a handbasket!”
“No, the world is in God’s hands.”
“Life is meaningless.”
“No life is in God’s hand. We are all moving towards Him.”
“You’re starting to annoy me. Will you shut up!”
Friends, let’s leave this church today and annoy some people. But do it lovingly. The Christian attitude is one of gratitude, one of hope, one of trust, one of charity, and one of quiet joy. We believe in God’s offer of salvation in and through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are encouraged and inspired by Holy Scripture and the Church’s teaching, and we are nourished and strengthened through the sacraments. Amen. Thanks be to God.
To my brother priests; in just a moment we are going to renew our priestly vows. While doing so, try and recall the joy, the energy, the hope, the conviction that you felt the first time that you made these vows at your priestly ordination. Mine was almost twenty-five years ago but I can still remember how eager I was and how encouraged I was to be a good priest. That eagerness has faded at times over the years but the commitment is still there. I suspect many of can say the same. Sometimes our attitudes may not have been the best, sometimes it’s been difficult to be a priest, sometimes we have made wrong choices, but, hopefully, we have never forgotten what we are all about. I thank you all on behalf of Archbishop Daniel and the community of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for all that you do for us. With the help of the Spirit and the support of your brother and sisters in faith may you continue to spread the “good news” with an attitude of gratitude for what God has done, is doing now, and will do in the future for all of creation. May all the saints, especially St. Francis of Assisi be praised. Or was it St. Francis de Sales?
* Dennis and Wendy Mannering
** Herm Albright