Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo
April 18, 2019
2 Sam 7:4-16; Luke 2:41-51
Holy Thursday, the day when we commemorate the Last Supper – the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood – Holy Thursday is a good day for us to remind ourselves what the Eucharist is really all about, whether it is celebrated in a grand cathedral or a humble chapel.
It is the Lord himself who is our teacher. Nothing in Scripture leads us to believe that the Last Supper was celebrated with outward opulence and grandeur. Its inward beauty shines forth when Jesus, who is master, teacher, and Lord, kneels before his disciples and washes their feet. Fully aware of his divinity and his mission, Jesus humbled himself before the disciples, doing something that was normally the work of servants.
In performing this symbolic act, Jesus teaches us three things at once: First, he points to the humiliation of the Cross, by which he will give his life for us in love, to save us from our sins. Second, the washing of the feet is a symbol of Baptism by which we are thoroughly cleansed by the power of the Cross. And third, Jesus’ act of humble service is a paradigm, a model, for our lives. We are to love and serve others as Jesus did, especially the poor and vulnerable.
St John introduces this story with great solemnity. He takes care to specify precisely the point in Jesus' life when he decides to wash his disciples' feet. Afterwards, Jesus explains the meaning of what he had done. He holds it up as an example for the apostles to follow. They are to express love within their community with humility and in practical ways. Note that this service is to be mutual: "to wash one another's feet".
Then, as Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and said, “This is my Body that is for you” …and as he took wine as said, “This is the new covenant in my blood” …Jesus “encapsulated” his Presence and his Sacrificial Love in the bread and wine he totally transformed into Himself by those very words. Then he added: “Do this in memory of me!” – in other words, do as way of perpetuating until the end of time, my living Presence and the One Sacrifice of Redemption I will offer on Calvary.
This is the heart and soul of every Mass… this the sacrificial meal set before us… whether Mass is celebrated with great solemnity or utter simplicity.
With the eyes of faith, let us peer into the inner beauty of every Mass. Let us meditate on the Eucharist daily, so we will never take it for granted or come to think that any other form of spiritual nourishment compares with it. We cannot do without this great mystery of love that connects us to Jesus, that causes him to live in us and among us, enables us to forgive and be forgiven, and gives us the wherewithal to live the law of love, to love others in daily life as God first loved us!
We, your priests, trace our priesthood to this night also, for in instituting the Eucharist Jesus also instituted the ministerial priesthood… How this mystery should transform our lives and yours! How this mystery should impel us to share the Good News with others and invite those who no longer practice their faith to return the altar of the Lord.
Holy Thursday celebrates deep signs of the mystery of God's love. Jesus is facing his 'hour'. He has no illusions about what lies ahead, of what would be involved in 'departing from this world'. But all his thought is for his disciples; he wants to give them an example of how they should live - in loving service.
This night we come together as one, around the table of the Lord. Let us come not only with a renewed and deepened appreciation but indeed with genuine praise and thanksgiving to the Lord who loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine, as together we say: “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine!”