Homily: Mass of the Lord's Supper, 2016

Sacred Heart Cathedral
24th March, 2016

Exod 12:1-14; 1 Cor 11: 23-26  John 13:1-15

In these days of Holy Week, in which we follow the last days leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord, we are in the midst of a great human drama. Some people call it ‘the greatest story ever told’. It is the journey of Jesus to His death and to His resurrection. The journey is full of vivid scenes; each one has its powerful symbols. This evening we find ourselves at the Last Supper, at that poignant gathering of Jesus with His closest disciples before the traumatic events that see them scattered. The disciples are perplexed, they’re anxious, they are loving. We see this evening, in a particular way, the action of Jesus, of coming to wash their feet. The Lord and Master on His knees, in the place of a servant or a slave.

St John’s Gospel, as we have just heard, makes this very clear. The central theme of the supper is love. John reminds us that the whole of Jesus’ life has been motivated by love. We are about to see him love ‘to the endʼ. We note that the words and phrases spoken by Jesus show that He is in total control, and that His actions are an expression of the will of the Father and of the Son carried out by the power and the love of the Holy Spirit. Listen again to these phrases: ‘Jesus knew that the hour had come’, ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into His hands, and that He had come from God and was returning to God’. Jesus knew who it was who was going to betray Him. This is not Jesus as a victim of circumstance, this is Jesus, the revelation of God.

He deliberately gives us this action as an expression of divine love. Here we see God in Jesus on His knees, washing our feet out of love. There is a special intimacy in Jesus’ action. He wants them to understand his laying down of his life as an act of love. This is why Jesus insists with Peter that he must do what he is doing, for it is only through his laying down his life in love, it is only through his loving to the end, that he can return to the Father and that Peter can share Jesus’ life with him. Here we see God, in Jesus, deliberately washing the feet of Peter, who is about to deny Him, and then deliberately washing the feet of Judas, who is shortly going to betray Him. Here we are taken to the heart of God’s love and mercy towards each one of us.

This is God’s mercy; never pushing us away, always wanting us with Him. Jesus wanted us to have everything “in common” with Him. This is vividly the astonishing core of the Gospel. It is not the same message of Exodus, as we heard in the first reading, where God destroys His enemies. But rather it is a gospel of mercy and forgiveness, where God accepts death at the hands of a betrayer, for He knows, as we know too, that He is going beyond death to be glorified in the fullness of the true life that comes after death.

Already at this Last Supper, with divine deliberateness, He shows what is to come. ‘This is my body, given up for you. Take and eat. This is my blood, shed for you. Take and drink.’ This is the extent to which He wants to have ‘all things in common with us’, the total gift of His life. This gift we receive at Mass in Holy Communion, when in our hearts and in our intentions, we want and strive to be one with Christ in the way we live.

Tonight, as we come to the altar and step forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a profound act of faith, let us renew in our hearts the realisation that Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples, is present to wash away anything that would keep us from being one with him, or hinder us from sharing in the joy of his new and eternal life.

So let us approach this Mass this evening, let us approach every Mass, with great hunger and thirst, longing to have everything in common with Him who gives everything to us.