13 Apr Mass of the Lord’s Supper
April 13th, 2017
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing 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 that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
At the end of his public ministry just before he was to ascend into heaven Jesus commissioned his disciples saying: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Go, make disciples, baptizing them & teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
…and remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.
The Lord Jesus clearly wants us to know he is with us…and he is with us most profoundly in His Church, in His Sacraments…
Take this all of you and Eat of it. For This is my Body.
Take this all of you and Drink of it. For this is my Blood. Do this in memory of me.
The Eucharist is not merely a sign or a symbol. It is Jesus really truly and substantially present in the Eucharistic signs of bread and wine. In chapter 6 of St. John’s gospel, known as His Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus says to not search for bread that perishes but look for the bread that lasts for eternal life. He says he himself is the living bread come down from heaven. And he clearly instructs them to eat my flesh and drink my blood. Here the crowd balks. There is nothing more theologically problematic and frankly disgusting for first century Jews than to think of drinking blood. Sprinkled throughout the Old Testament are prohibitions against eating the flesh of an animal with its blood. Blood was seen as life…it belongs to God. It was strictly forbidden for a Jew to eat flesh with blood in it. Here is Jesus speaking to a Jewish audience saying they should eat his flesh with blood. So you can see why the first century crowd balks. How can he possibly give us his flesh to eat?… is their question. This teaching is difficult; Who can accept it? Jesus here is given every opportunity to explain his words. Instead he intensifies his language: “Amen, amen I say to you! Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life within you.” Then he intensifies his meaning even more: “my flesh is real food my blood is real drink.”
Many who were following him leave at this point. He doesn’t call after them and say you’ve misunderstood I just meant this as a sign or a symbol. No. He lets them go…clearly indicating he meant exactly what he said. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Again, he intensifies even more…. turning to those who remain he said…And will you also leave…Peter speaks for those remaining…
‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’
This evening we celebrate the gift of two sacraments: The Eucharist and the Priesthood.
This is my body. This is my blood. Do this in memory of me.
God wants to share His Life with us in giving us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist and in giving us His Priesthood so we can have the Eucharist.
Two other key qualities of this evening in The Mass of the Lord’s Supper are the great commandment, known as the Mandatum, and the manner in which we are to live out this mandate…seen in Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples.
Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday. Just prior to the reading of the Passion Narrative, we heard one of the most ancient of the passages contained within the New Testament.…written soon after Jesus’ ministry had finished…They are St. Paul’s words concerning Jesus great self emptying. Chapter 2 of his letter to the Philippians… and scholars think he was quoting a hymn even closer to the time of Jesus than he himself: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself.” (Phil. 2:6-11) This Mass of Holy Thursday deepens our understanding of that Mystery…of the self-emptying of Jesus Christ and calls us to imitate this self-emptying in our daily lives. Tonight, as well as the Eucharist, we celebrate the gift of the ministerial priesthood which continues to make present the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. When our Priest stands at that altar, it is Jesus Christ in whom He stands, Christ is the victim, and Christ is the Holy Sacrificial Offering. Jesus gave Himself to us in the great meal in which we participate on this Holy Night. At the Last Supper Jesus anticipated the altar of the Cross at which He would willingly pour out the very last drop of His Blood – so that we could be set free…
When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us a supernatural expression of Love; an expression that reveals the heart of the Christian vocation. He, who is Lord and Master, King of Kings, takes on the role of a slave. He washed the feet of those whom He had chosen to continue His Redemptive work. He showed them what they were chosen to do. Then He enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world.
To bear the name “Christian” is to walk in this kind of love in the midst of a broken and wounded world. We live in a world which God still loves. He still sends His Son into that world, through the Church of which we are members. That world is being recreated anew as He continues His Mission through the Church, through His sacraments and through each one of us living out his great mandate of self sacrificial love.
The early Christians spoke of the Church as the world in the process of being transfigured. And, we are a part of that Body, that Communion. It is in this sense that we come to understand that Christian love is to be lived. In the washing of the apostles’ feet the Love of the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is made into symbolic action. Love is a command, a mandate. The foot-washing during our ceremony this evening is more than a re-enactment of an actual historic event; it is a participation in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ through His Church in the real world of now…of our time. The Foot washing expresses what living a life of self emptying love looks like in imitation of the Lord who emptied Himself for us. It is a command to become a man or woman poured out for others. A Christian who lives the love of Charity (Caritas), the Love of Jesus Christ, makes Jesus Christ present … makes Jesus Christ real…Shines the life and light of God into the events of our everyday lives. In doing so, the Incarnation continues. Another way of how he is with us always…He is with us always…through our acts of self-sacrificial love.
In our participation in the Mysteries of these three Holy days we will encounter the Lord’s call anew to follow Him, to bear His name in the everyday of our world.
Through grace we are capacitated to become an epiphany a manifestation of the self-emptying sacrificial love of Jesus the Christ.
“So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table …”You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (St John, Chapter 13)
Here, we encounter Jesus, showing the depth and substance of true love…self sacrificial service. Shortly after this event we read of the continuation of this great Act of poured out Love. First Jesus inaugurates the great meal that is itself the very heart of the holy exchange, The Sacrifice, the Holy Oblation of Love. He gives Himself as food for those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father and invites them to bring the whole world with them. Then, this Innocent One walks the way of suffering and mounts the altar of sacrifice, the Cross on Golgotha in order to fully pour Himself out – every last drop of blood and water flowing from His wounded side – on behalf of us all, beginning creation anew, overcoming sin, paying the debt of justice and defeating the devil and the last enemy, death.
As we enter into this Triduum, These three great days, we are invited to make this mystery our own. Not merely spectators in this Act of Love…we are called and empowered to become participants. We who bear the name Christian are called ourselves to pick up that basin and towel, to climb up on that Cross and to learn -and to live- this way of Love in self sacrificial service in the everyday events of our lives.
Our faith and love are meant to be active and real. We live Love’s eternal promise by living like the One who washed His disciples feet. When, in self sacrificial love, we serve and respond to the needs of those around us, we make the mystery of self-giving Love present in response to Jesus’ Mandatum: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”