31 Mar Holy Thursday, March 24, 016
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on
St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time.
If there is something herein which you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
In Yesterday’s Wednesday General Audience in Rome Pope Francis spoke about the Easter Triduum laying out the map for this upcoming Holy Days.
He said: “Dear Brothers and Sisters: As we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Triduum in this Holy Year of Mercy, we are invited in a special way to contemplate the revelation of God’s infinite mercy in the events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. … Holy Thursday, Jesus gives himself to us as food and, in the washing of feet, teaches us the need to serve others. On Good Friday, in the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross, we contemplate that undying divine love which embraces all mankind and summons us in turn to love one another in the power of the Spirit. Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, invites us not only to solidarity with all who are abandoned and alone, but also to trust in that faithful love which turns death into life. These, then, are days which speak to us powerfully of God’s love and mercy.” Then Pope Francis added: “In one of her visions, Julian of Norwich hears the Lord say that he rejoices eternally because he was able to suffer for our sake out of love. Let us prepare then to celebrate the coming days with gratitude for this great mystery of God’s mercy, poured out for us on the cross of our salvation.”
In this Holy Thursday celebration we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the washing of the feet of the disciples.
The entire gospel tonight focuses us on the washing of the feet and Jesus’ question to the disciples and therefore to each one of us.
Jesus said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” ( John 13: 15)
Jesus gave the apostles the Eucharist so that they would go out and give of themselves in service to others.
The Eucharist is at the Last Supper and on Good Friday calls us to a two-fold love. The Eucharist moves us from sacramental union with Christ when we receive His Eucharistic Body to union with His Mystical Body, in the least of our brothers and sisters. We cannot separate the love and worship of God from the love of our neighbour. One without the other is incomplete. They must go together.
This two-fold Eucharistic love becomes the basis upon which to live our new life in Christ. It is not enough to have mere piety. To live fully in communion with Christ, we must reach out to our neighbour as well. We find this two-fold love expressed so beautifully in the First Letter of John: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16). This is the very reason we were created: to share in this love of God, meaning that God loves us and we love him in return. This love is the source of all our joy and happiness, both in time and in eternity. St. John continues: « If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother or sister, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen…… he who loves God should love his brother or sister also. » (1 John 4:20-21) The Love of God is completed in the love of neighbour. Receiving our Lord and Saviour in Holy Communion calls us to this two-fold love.
Jesus said to them, «If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. » John 13: 15
A beautiful illustration of this two-fold Eucharistic love, for Christ and for our neighbour, is seen in the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was once asked, “From where do you find the strength to take care of all the difficult cases that you encounter each day? the dying destitute in the streets of Calcuttta? The lepers? The abandoned babies? The AIDS victims? The homeless and the hungry?” Mother answered with her simple yet profound wisdom: “I begin each day by going to Mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, hidden under the simple form of bread. Then I go out into the streets and find the same Jesus hidden in the dying destitute people, in the lepers, in the abandoned babies, in the AIDS people, and in the homeless and the hungry. It is the same Jesus.”
I personally experienced this when eight Queen’s students and I travelled to Calcutta to work for three weeks with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The men on the trip worked at the hospice for men who had been brought in off the street to die so that they had the experience that someone cared for them in their dying days. There was a man there who was completely non verbal, very emaciated, and seriously mentally handicapped. His name was Ruah. It was my job to try to get Ruah to eat something, give him some rudimentary medication and take him to the shower area so that the Brothers of the Missionaries of Charity could shower him. One of the days I was coming to get Ruah for his shower and Eric, the German coordinator of the hospice, scooped Ruah up in his arms, and handed him to me and said: “The Body of Christ.” I was stunned but, as I took Ruah into my arms, the statement was so obviously accurate that I couldn’t help but reply: “Amen!”
We cannot separate the love and worship of God from the love of our neighbour. One without the other is incomplete. They must go together.
Before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger commented, “The Lord gives himself to us in bodily form. That is why we must likewise respond to him bodily. That means above all that the Eucharist must reach out beyond the limits of the Church itself in the manifold forms of service to men and women and to the world.” (God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life, p. 91)
This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebration is judged, said Pope John Paul II (Mane Nobiscum Domine #28)
Pope Benedict XVI boldly declared that the Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented. (Deus Caritas Est, #14). Intrinsically fragmented!!!!
Just as the Last supper on Holy Thursday contains Christ’s sacrifice on the cross on Good Friday… thereby showing the essential unity of sacrament and sacrifice…. our Eucharistic celebration should also be inseparately joined with our Christian life. Liturgy without charity is empty! The Eucharist is a mystery to be believed; a mystery to be celebrated and a mystery to be lived!
There is an ancient saying in the Church: Lex credendi, lex orandi, lex vivendi. The law of belief is how we pray, and what we believe and pray is how we are to live.
This is at the heart of Pope Francis’ teaching since his election and at the core of his declaration of this Jubilee of Mercy. The fruit of our Eucharistic love must be the works of mercy. The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy must be the fruit of our belief and celebration of the Eucharist. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, dress the naked, house the pilgrims, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. These name practical specific ways in which anyone can enact mercy in the name of the Lord. Pope France in the book called the Name of God is Mercy asks: What should we do for the homeless man camped in front of our home, for the poor man who has nothing to eat, for the neighbouring family who cannot make it to the end of the month because one of the parents has lost their job? How should we behave with the immigrants who have survived the crossing and who land on our shores? What should we do for the elderly who are alone, abandoned, and who have no one?” He goes on, “We are called to serve Christ the Crucified through every marginalized person. We touch the flesh of Christ in he who is outcast, hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted, in search of refuge. That is where we find our God, that is where we touch the Lord. ……. The Seven Spiritual works of mercy address the emotional side of suffering: advise those in doubt; teach the ignorant; admonish the sinners; console the afflicted; forgive offenses; be patient with annoying people; pray to God for both the living and the dead. The first four involve reaching out, knowing how to listen, to be generous with good advice……..Pope Francis concludes this book by stating: “By welcoming a marginalized person whose body is wounded and by welcoming the sinner whose soul is wounded, we put our credibility as Christians on the line. Let us always remember the words of St. John of the Cross: « In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” (The Name of God is Mercy, p. 98 – 99)
During the Jubilee Audience held on Saturday, March 12th, in speaking about the act of the washing of feet, Pope Francis stated: “By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus wished to reveal God’s mode of action in regard to us, and to give an example of his ‘new commandment’ (John 13:34) to love one another as He has loved us, that is, laying down his life for us”. ……. he added that love “is the practical service that we offer to others. Love is not a word, it is a deed, a service; humble service, hidden and silent”. Indeed, “it is expressed in the sharing of material goods, so that no one be left in need”. It is, moreover, “the lifestyle that God suggests, even to non-Christians, as the authentic path of humanity.”
Jesus said to the disciples, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. » John 13: 15
One of the great documents of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, (Joy and Life), defines who we are created to be. It states: “Mankind truly discovers himself by making a sincere gift of the self.” A sincere gift of the self…. This is who God has created us to be. Pope St. John Paul II in his letter on the dignity of women defined a person as a complete gift of the self to the other.
Our liturgical commemoration of Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet tonight is in imitation of what he did that first Holy Thursday evening…. But more importantly it is an expression of the self-gift signified by this gesture of service. Each one of us ….. to be fully who God has created us to be……. must make a complete gift of ourselves in service to those most in need.
Would those who are having their feet washed please come forward?