HOLY THURSDAY March 25, 2018
Exodus 12: 1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116; 1Cor. 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-15
by Jude Siciliano, OP
I have a friend who keeps misplacing his car keys. So, to help his poor memory and to save a lot of time, he bought one of those key rings with a battery-powered device attached to it. It’s designed to beep when you clap your hands. Now, when my friend misplaces his keys, he claps his hands and follows the sound of the beep. A good help for a poor memory. But there is another kind of remembering that concerns us at our liturgy this evening and it isn’t helped by modern gadgetry, but by what has been passed on to us and what we have incorporated into our lives. It is the memory of Jesus.
In our second
reading, Paul reminds us of what Jesus did for us and what he wants us to do in
Jesus’ memory.” It is so easy to forget Jesus’ message, the world works hard to
give us amnesia. In a power-laden, success-driven, ego-centered world, we don’t
have much help or encouragement to remember Jesus’ teachings about God’s love
for us and our vocation to serve others. We need a memory aide and the Eucharist
is that for us. The selection from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is the
earliest written account of the Last Supper and Jesus’ words of blessings over
the bread and the cup of wine.
Jesus tells his disciples, “Do this in memory of me.” He is doing more than commanding them to continue celebrating the Eucharist. He is not only breaking bread and pouring out wine; in the broken bread and cup he is breaking and pouring himself for them. He is doing at the Last Supper what he had always done--- giving himself to his disciples—he does the same for us now.
He continues to give himself and make himself available when our broken spirits need healing, our sins forgiving, and our lives direction. In the Eucharist Christ is truly present to us, despite the times we have “forgotten” him and “remembered” the world’s distorted criteria for living. No wonder we have to return to this Eucharist so often, we need our damaged memories awakened and refocused. When we gather at Eucharist, we remember how Jesus lived and died. By receiving the Eucharist, we hope the transformation that is going on in us will continue and Jesus’ memory will become flesh and blood in our lives. So, we need to “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Besides our celebration of the Eucharist this evening, we will “remember” Christ best when our lives reflect his life and we give ourselves for others the way he did. We have much to remember about Jesus; and there is much about his “true presence” that needs to be enfleshed in our daily lives. We want to remember how he:
• loved both friends and enemies
• taught others about God’s reign
• kept trying, right up to his death, to persuade those who opposed him, of God’s love for all people
• resisted reacting with violence when violence was done to him
• forgave, over and over,
• healed the sick and touched the unclean
• welcomed sinners to his table
• treasured the poorest and called them friends
• comforted the grieving and sorrowing
• fed the hungry
• was a vehicle for God’s grace for all he met
We remember that
Jesus said to us, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And so we will. We will break
bread and pour wine tonight and in doing this, we will remember how Jesus has
touched our broken and poured-out spirits and made them whole. In this meal, we
continue our journey away from sin, towards salvation; away from isolation to
fuller membership and participation in this community of faith. We will remember
Christ by dedicated ourselves in the way Jesus did, to the needs of our
community of believers, and also to a broken and poured-out world.
In his narrative of the Last Supper, Paul is showing us the link between this meal and Jesus’ life of self-giving. Our focus tonight is on the body and blood of Christ and Paul reminds us about Christ’s “true presence” in the world---in the hungry, naked, thirsty, sick and imprisoned--- for in “remembering” Jesus at the Eucharist, we remember who he was and how he lived. In this meal, his way of living is to become ours. The Eucharist on our altar is a gift of discernment that enables us to see Christ’s presence in the least in our midst. Our remembering Jesus in our Eucharist takes concrete shape by our living as the body of Christ in our world.
In the gospel, John tells his readers that the hour of Jesus’ Passover has arrived. Jesus is the new Lamb of God who will be handed over in sacrifice. The washing of the feet reminds us that those who have received Jesus’ bath – Baptism – have a share in his heritage. John points out that Jesus was, “fully aware that God had put everything in his power....” How will Jesus use this power? Certainly not the way the world does. After we hear of Jesus’ power, John immediately tells us that Jesus takes up the humble task of washing his disciples’ feet. He is the Servant who, in giving away his life, gives us life.
Peter hesitates because he gets the point; to accept Jesus’ “washing” means to accept the same vocation Jesus had – service. No wonder Peter pauses, but he quickly recovers and, even though he has no clue what he is accepting, Peter trusts Jesus enough to let him wash his feet.
Both Paul and John make clear what Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” mean for us as we partake of the Eucharist, not only tonight, but each time we gather to hear the Word and share the meal. No wonder Paul goes on to advise us, “For as often as you eat his bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Through our eating and drinking, the life of Jesus is deepened in us and we too receive the power John tells us Jesus had. Through this meal and our lives as Jesus’ servants, we now can “proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
Caution to preachers. The focus of the liturgy and the scriptures tonight is not on “the institution or the priesthood.” Preaching on that theme risks being detached from the biblical texts provided for us. In addition, such a preaching will make the priesthood of the ordained the focus of the celebration and remove all those present from the obligation to hear and apply these scriptures to their lives – whether ordained or lay. We are all called to do what Jesus did, to lay down our lives in loving service for others.
What Jesus did by washing his disciples’ feet was not an act of self-degradation, but one of self-giving love. He is not calling us to humiliate ourselves, but to live a loving way in, what is too frequently, an unloving world. We can see in the foot washing a chance to reflect on our baptismal commitments and to prepare for the Vigil service when we will renew our promises. In our Baptism, we took on the life of Jesus. Tonight we recommit ourselves, with the help of this Eucharist, to the service of others. This service must, like Jesus’, be a loving “to the end.” It is a full time, lifetime commitment. Who can possibly do that? On our own, we can’t, that is why we gather for this renewal meal, this “remembering” of Christ.
Click here for a link to this Holy Day’s readings:
BAPTISM is the source
of "re-membering." It tells us "who we are and who we are becoming," as John the
Deacon wrote in the year 500. It tells us that we are the Christ, daily being
made more and more into his image. This is dangerous and subversive information.
Those who regard human life as worth little are able to countenance any sort of
social injustice. Those who know themselves as images of God have a profound
sense of dignity and worth born of knowing their divine heritage; and, aware
that every other person is also the Christ, they are not satisfied until
economic and social structures provide dignity and care for all.
The early church's baptismal liturgy was an experience of social justice, of a new social order, the reign of God. By modeling a new social order, a new creation, in the catechumenate and in baptism, the early church subverted the Roman Empire from within rather than challenging it head on .... Christians proclaimed in word and deed that only Jesus, who had accomplished their liberation by his death and resurrection, was the Lord. This undercut allegiance to the Roman imperial system. It is no wonder the Roman Empire persecuted the Christian community ....
By choosing voluntarily to forego food, the faithful have made themselves powerless, too. They are ready to stand with the "marginal" of their own community, those called to baptism this Easter. They are thus prepared to discover that, contrary to our society's wisdom, sharing their goods does not deprive them of worth or being; rather, it enables them to be filled with the sense of wholeness and "new creation" that is the heart of the Easter Vigil. This is what the Fathers called "festive fasting." When we choose to be dispossessed of material good, we rediscover it as sacramental; we learn that it is meant to lead us to relationships, not to be an end in itself ....
Adult baptism at the Easter Vigil shows the world how God sees the human race. As Nathan Mitchell has noted, the experience of a catechumen in baptism is radically in contrast with the usual experience of interaction in daily life. Where else does one experience being lovingly bathed, massaged with perfumed oil, clothed in a beautiful new garment, embraced, fed, incensed? Yet these are true symbols of the way God sees us; as we act out this love at the Easter Vigil, we reveal the new humanity that God is working to build .... Here is a description John Chrysostom gave of a baptismal liturgy at Antioch in the fourth century:
As soon as the newly baptized come forth from those sacred waters, all who are present embrace them, kiss them, rejoice with them, and congratulate them, because those who were heretofore slaves and captives have suddenly become free men and women and sons and daughters and have been invited to the royal table.
----Robert Brooks, quoted in, A TRIDUUM SOURCEBOOK, ed. by Gabe Huck and Mary Ann Simcoe (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1983.
INMATES ON-LINE JOURNAL
This is an announcement I received from Lyle May, a friend and inmate on North Carolina’s Death row.
The “Life Lines Collective” is a group of creative writers on North Carolina’s death row who have found a unique way to share their experiences through an online journal at: www.lifelines.is Convinced that all of us are more than the worst thing we’ve done, “Life Lines” attempts to open a clearing for new kinds of solidarity: To build up a world that does not yet exist. To learn more about these amazing audio essays, poems and spoken-word pieces go to:
http://www.lifelines.is - - - Http://facebook.com/lifelinescollective
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
Also, check the link for the interfaith, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:
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St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736