Homily for Holy Thursday, Year B 2015

Homily for Holy Thursday- The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Year B 2105

Today’s feast is the THE feast for the corporate Church. I use corporate in the original meaning of the word “corpus” in Latin, meaning body. THE feast for the creating of the Body of the Church with all its many parts. The Mass, such as we celebrate this evening,  has always been important, of course, in the Church, stemming from Jesus’ own words – “Do this in memory of me.” The THIS is what we celebrate this evening, and indeed each time we say Mass – re-enacting the supreme sacrifice of Jesus to redeem us, remembering it, but also participating in it. When we take communion we become part of the corporate body in a very special and unique way – a mysterious way – And this is the anniversary of that first Eucharist when the mandate to remember was given us.

I want to begin tonight with a quotation from William Willimon that I think might get me into my message of this evening. Many Americans run around today thinking they are religious because they are “spiritual”. Willimon suggests that “spirituality has made religion successful and safe, enabling 90 percent of all Americans to say they believe in God.” And then he really hits hard: “If you crank God down low enough, make the term vague enough, and empty it of any intellectual content, everybody is a believer. Spirituality enables us to be the first generation of Christians in history who cannot get hurt by following Jesus.” 1

I want to support this but want to take it a step further. I don’t think we can call ourselves Christians and not be part of a Christian community. Yes, Jesus went off to pray. But the majority of his time was spent in community – a community of twelve men and many male and female disciples. A lot of that time was spent eating and drinking and celebrating. And the tough messages that Jesus gave us always came in community.

The Last Supper was one of many suppers we read about in the Gospels, although in some ways it should be called the First Supper because it defined what the community would be doing for the next 2000 and more years.We hear from Paul and the 2 earliest Gospel writers about the Supper itself and the command to do the meal in Christ’s memory, but in John we also learn what it means to be a community and we are to treat each other in community.

We have often spoken about the washing of the feet as symbolic of how there is to be no distinction in class, wealth, sex or even religion in how we treat one another. We have often spoken as does John about the commandment of Love, one of the most difficult of all the commandments. It should not be easy to be a Christian – we have to give what we have worked for to others in need, we have to devote time in our schedule filled lives to be part of a community and to find ways to be of service in that community. We are, even when we are not feeling up to it, to think of others first. This is not a namby-pamby spirituality where we sit in our comfortable rocking chairs and meditate or read a holy book though we need some of that as well to recharge our batteries. Just being spiritual makes us an onlooker and not involved. Nothing is at risk. it is too comfortable, and if there is anything about Jesus that we know – he didn’t allow the comfortable to remain that way.

The community that we experience here tonight is probably a little closer to the original meal that Jesus had with the Apostles on that Thursday long ago. We have more food than just bread and wine, though those symbols still stand out as the important ones. We have companionship, common goals, interest in one another, genuine caring for each other, hospitality, and each of us brings something to the table in the way of food, conversation, faith and common belief in Jesus as God whom we will all receive and be in communion with. Thus, “We are all one body”, as we sing. Whenever we in the church are able to love one another, then we experience what it means to be Christian, what it means to be one with Christ and what it means to have eternal life.

This is what Holy Thursday is about. This is what being a Christian means. And don’t let anyone who withdraws from community or who says they don’t need community to be a Christian,  that they can be spiritual, allow you to believe that. If we miss community, we miss most of what Christ is all about. And this is best illustrated to us today on this feast when we celebrate the Supper that will re-enact what will happen to Jesus in the next three days.

This is both the hard-hitting news of the Last Supper and the Good News of our Savior today.

1.Willimon, William H. Thank God It’s Thursday: Encountering Jesus at the Lord’s Table. Abington Press, Nashville in Chapter Love With the Basin and Towel

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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