| Year 2009 Canonical Studies
The oil of mercy in the lamp of our lives
(Fr. Alex Vadakumthala)
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The Ranchi Conference of the Canon Law Society of India, held during the Year of Priests, had a very relevant theme: `The Sacraments, other than Marriage’. Though it was a mere coincidence or, more a providence, it did help the participants to reflect once again on the meaning of the Sacraments in the life of the Church and in the lives of priests as the ministers, as well as the beneficiaries of the Sacraments.

“At the centre of the Church’s worship is the notion of “sacrament”: these were the opening words by Pope Benedict XVI in his homily at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday on April 1, 2010 at the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He further explained, saying, “There are four elements in creation on which the world of sacraments is built: water, bread, wine and olive oil. While water is the vital element everywhere, and thus represents the shared access of all people to rebirth as Christians, the other three elements belong to the culture of the Mediterranean region. In other words, they point towards the concrete historical environment in which Christianity emerged.” Reflecting on each of these elements, the Pope continued, “Bread is the fundamental gift of life day by day. Wine has to do with feasting, with the fine things of creation. Olive oil has a wide range of meaning. In popular etymologies a connection was made, even in ancient times, between the Greek word “elaion” – oil – and the word “eleos” – mercy. In fact, in the various sacraments, consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. So the meaning of priestly anointing always includes the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve. In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry.”

As Canonists, in our study and understanding of the Sacraments, the necessary ethos and pastoral commitment to be reflected is summarized in these words of Pope Benedict XVI: “In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry.” In our role as ministers of sacraments for God’s people, there is the need to bring “the oil of gladness” in their lives. During the Year of Priests, the XXIII Annual Conference held from October 21 to 25, 2009 at Social Development Centre, Ranchi, was a reminder to become oneself a sacrament, a sign of God’s love, mercy and compassion, in today’s world.

The five-day National Conference of Canonists was inaugurated by Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi. “Only a well-knit and disciplined community will have a steady progress”, said Cardinal Toppo at the Inaugural Address. “Almost hundred years back, when the visionary missionaries like Fr. Constant Lievens came to Chotanagpur, they insisted that only discipline and order in the community will help for the development of every member, though often law is seen by some as difficult and narrow. Preserving this spirit of discipline is the challenge of the modern times.” Speaking on the application of law, Cardinal Toppo reminded, “Law is to be implemented with love, care and equity.”

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