Homily (Reflection) for Maundy (Holy) Thursday (Mass of the Lord’s Supper) (18th April, 2019) on the Gospel and the celebration
Ex 12:1-8.11-14;Ps 115:12-13.15-18. (R. cf. 1Cor 10:16);
General norms for the Liturgical Year number 18 reads: “Christ accomplished the work of redemption and the perfect glorification of God principally through his Paschal mystery, in which dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life [cf. Rom 5:8; 1Thess 5:10]. Hence, the Sacred Easter Triduum of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection shines forth as the culmination of the whole liturgical year.” Sacred Easter Triduum refers to Holy (Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. These days are considered the three most sacred days and are otherwise known as the Paschal Triduum. It begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
In Sacred Easter Triduum, the Church makes present and fulfils the mystery of Christ’s passing from the world to the Father, cf. Jn 16:28. Before the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the tabernacle is completely empty. Gloria is sung and the church bells may be rung and then are silent until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil. The feet of selected people are washed. After the Post Communion prayer, the Holy Eucharist is transferred to an appropriate place (Altar of Repose). Every faithful is expected to spend time with the Lord who calls us to stay awake and remain with him in adoration, cf. Matt 26:38. The altar is later completely stripped. Crucifixes are either removed from the church or veiled. Christ has been delivered into the hands of sinners to suffer the most ignoble death for us to live, cf. Matt 26:45; 1Thess 5:10, 1Jn 4:9.
Topic: Christ’s legacies.
We celebrate among others three mysteries: the institution of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the ministerial priesthood, and the command to be others’ slave, cf. Mk 10:44. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of love. It is the celebration of Christ’s giving of Himself for us which is the greatest form of love, cf. Jn 15:13. Therefore participation in the Holy Eucharist is participation in Christ’s love.
However, receiving the Holy Eucharist is not a mark of being a good Christian. Jesus tells us, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). Again, Judas received it before all of us and we know what it brought for him, cf. Jn 13:21-27. Participating in Christ’s love and the call to love others are inseparable.
In the gospel according to Saint Mark we read:
You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all (Mk 10:42-44).
In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is both the victim and the priest, and in giving the new commandment, he was also both the teacher and the instructional material. It is important to note that in the Jewish tradition, it is the function of slaves to wash others’ feet. So, the washing of feet in this Mass is a symbolical representation of the humility of Christ, who “... came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28, cf. Mk 10:45).
In one parish, the catechist after selecting people for the washing of the feet submitted their names to the parish priest. Among these was a man who opposes everything the parish priest says and does. On seeing this, he quickly asked the catechist, ‘Why not include Satan in the list?’ Remember that Christ washed the feet of all the apostles including that of Judas. If we select only those we considered as our friends, what are we doing? (cf. Matt 5:46; Lk 6:32)
Again, one priest during the meeting of the bishop with his priests referred to the bishop as an unworthy bishop and the bishop reacted quickly. For the bishop, the priest just insulted him but the priest reminded him that he (the bishop) had referred to himself during the consecration and while addressing them as an unworthy bishop (servant). And the bishop retorted “But you mean the one you just said.” “So you never meant what you have been saying?” queried the priest.
Saint Augustine rightly admonishes us to approach the Holy Eucharist humbly, ponder worthily so great a favour, and be aware that we must be ready to do for others what Christ first did for us (Divine Office II, 1974, p. 277). Christ is saying to all of us:
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 (Jn 13:13-15).
Pray for ministerial priests in a special way today because the Holy Eucharist cannot be celebrated without ministerial priest. Hence, we celebrate today also the ordination of the first set of ministerial priests – the apostles by Christ himself. Once more, pray for priests today. Finally, I need your prayers most.
Bible Reading: Jn 6:22-71; Matt 5:43-48; 22:34-40; 1Jn 4:7-21; 1Thess 5:1-10.
Thought for today: Christ has given us Himself as a sign of His love and also asks us to love each other.
Let us pray: Lord, as we celebrate your Supper, soak us always in your love to be able to love you in the Holy Eucharist and others as you love us – Amen.
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