THIS IS MY BODY……..THIS IS MY BLOOD
I am not preaching this evening at the Holy Thursday Mass at the Cathedral as that task is being shared with the two priests of St. Jude’s this year. I will preach the homily at the Good Friday liturgy, however. Nonetheless, I wish to offer a few reflections on the incredible importance of tonight’s liturgy of the Eucharist. Three words only begin to capture the heart of what Holy Thursday is all about: service, eucharist, adoration.
Service is so plainly evident in the inclusion into the liturgy of the “washing of feet.” Recalling that Jesus, the host for the Passover supper evening in the Upper Room, took it upon himself to wash the feet of his disciples and then reminded them that he came “to serve and not to be served” is a constant reminder to me of my obligation to place others before myself, to assist more than be assisted, to share and give rather than always receive, to treat the homeless and incarcerated with the same genorsity as the greatest donor or friend, and to be at the service of all.
As we do every time Mass is celebrated we recall “the night before he died” or “the night before he suffered”. We hear the account from St. Paul of the institution of the Eucharist, the first Mass as it were, and of the continual gift of self which Jesus made possible by his actions of taking break and wine and telling us that when we do it in remembrance of Him it becomes his body and his blood. This Eucharist is as we have often said over the past four years the source and summit of our faith and marks in a special way who we are as Catholic Christians. It is truly the moment of the institution, the beginning of his continuing presence in our midst when his earthly life was soon to end. How generous? How loving? How greatly he cared for us.
Finally, for those who can, there is some time to be spent with him “in the garden of sorrows” or Gethsemane. Those who attend the Holy Thursday liturgy know that at its conclusion, the Body of Christ consecrated at the Mass for use on Good Friday is carried in procession to another place, another altar, another tabernacle where the faithful gather in darkness to watch and pray with the Lord for a reasonable amount of time. The procession recalls the walk which Jesus and some of his disciples made from the Upper Room, down into the valley and to the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked his disciples to remain and pray for him and with him while he himself went off to ask the Father perhaps to let this coming suffering and sorrow pass from him. He did not get his wish, his prayer was seemingly unanswered, until the word of the Resurrection comes. I always end my day usually at a parish near my home where I try to spend an hour in prayer. It is hard not to fall asleep as did Peter and the others but it is a special time. I am always edified at the several dozen people who stay until the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Altar of Repose and placed hidden for use tomorrow on Good Friday.
I hope you will derive great graces from these three days and I will return tomorrow with my Good Friday homily whose inspiration this year comes not only from the events of the day we recall, but Pope Benedict’s brilliant second volume of reflections on the life of Christ published in March and entitled JESUS OF NAZARETH: HOLY WEEK: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. It is a wonderful book, exquisitely clear even for a non-scholar. Our Holy Father who last week celebrated both his 84th birthday and sixth anniversary of election is a gift to the Church.