TOWARD A HOMILY FOR HOLY THURSDAY
Categories: Father Fay's Section
SOME THOUGHTS TOWARD A HOMILY FOR HOLY THURSDAY
If you have not done so already, I believe you will find it helpful to reread the scriptures assigned for the Mass of the Supper of the Lord, easily available earlier on this homepage. First, we hear again of the Passover Meal in Egypt and the command to keep this as an annual biblical memorial. The psalm response contains a refrain from the New Testament and the faith and worship of our Old Testament ancestors — the cup of salvation in sacrificial thanksgiving to God. We gladly listen to Saint Paul tell us that the Eucharist is a tradition which was handed on to him from the early Christians and now he hands on to us. Finally, the Gospel surprisingly calls us back in the washing of the feet to the bond that Jesus established between him and us and the love that flows from it in both directions. All of this comes together in our celebration of what the Father continues to do for us through the Easter Mystery which we begin on Holy Thursday.
The present crisis facing us in these days highlights the fact that the Passover Meal was celebrated in the home. Jesus loved his Father’s house, the Temple, but gave instructions for the disciples to prepare the Passover in the Upper Room. In a remarkable way this setting for the Passover brings the Temple and our daily lives together. This sacred meal takes place over a rather lengthy period of time combining eating and drinking sacred foods, the recounting of what God has done for us, praise and thanksgiving of God in a community setting, and a deepening of faith and mutual love at the table of the Lord. From the Last Supper accounts we know that they sang certain psalms together in praise of God — The Hallel [Halleluia] Psalms 114-118, (Matthew 26:30)
Even though the Seder Service followed a definite ritual, it was for the participants an actual and new experiencing of God in their midst, Emmanuel. This presence of the Lord expressed itself so strongly by the bond of mutual love of those gathered — the shalom. Let us reflect a moment how this took place at the Last Supper in the washing of the feet and the discourse and prayers of Jesus with his disciples. The way Jesus put it to his disciples: I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15:5). It becomes even clearer in his exchange with Peter when Jesus approached him to wash his feet, during which Jesus said to Peter: Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me (John 13:8). The bond that underlies the love is there and must remain. If this is the way of thinking and acting on Jesus’ part, we can understand how the Lord could and would forgive him the denial.
A new lesson this year from all of this is that Jesus wants us to be close to him in the midst of the brotherhood. This is the reason for gathering at Mass. We can watch a video of a Mass from afar but the intimacy with Christ and the Church suffers. I wonder what will be the long range consequences of social distancing. God did not make us that way nor save us that way. We are in a temporary situation and look forward to better times in the faith. The vine and the branches need to spend time together. He is calling us to a deeper bond with him and his people.