Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper (C) March 24

Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday) Year C (March 24, 2016)

Holy Thursday is the day we celebrate the last meal that Jesus ever had, a meal in which there is much going on. On the surface, we have a group of men who had entered Jerusalem somewhat triumphantly, preaching a message of Good News, celebrating together the one Jewish feast of most importance each year – the Passover – together. It was a holy meal, one steeped in tradition for the Jews and laid out for them in their Scriptures. Certain prayers would be recited and they would be brought back to the miracles of the Exodus so that they would never forget the work that God had done for them.

But along with this meal, there was much more going on. Jesus seemed to know that his death was imminent, and he used the feast as a way of preparation for the events to come and even more, long-term, into the future so that everyone after would also be part of this feast. Jesus knew he was being betrayed and as part of the meal he named his betrayer.  He didn’t try to stop him – things were already in motion – God’s plan for all of us.

Two amazing things did happen at this Passover meal, however. The first is the establishment of the eucharist, the way this meal could be immortalized and with us for all time. Jesus took food from the meal and wine from the meal and miraculously became one with the food and drink so that we might experience Jesus inside of us as we ate and drank. Both a metaphor and a reality, the Eucharist has been the bond we have all shared throughout history from that time. As we receive the eucharist this evening, as we drink the wine, know that we are drinking Christ’s body and blood and we are partaking in the great sacrifice that he made for us all. We remember him as he asked, yes, but this is no simple memorial. Christ is living and he becomes a part of us. We take it for granted but we should be awed by this each and every time we take communion.

The second event – the washing of the feet – though it may seem an odd ceremony to us today, was part of a ritual performed in Jewish homes and was based on cleanliness and sanitary reasons. Sandals which were open were the shoes of the day, and there was no cement or concrete. People walked on dirty roads and picked up the dirt of the walk on their feet. When a person entered a home, it was traditional to have jugs of water by the door and to have guests feet washed. This would be done by a servant, just one of the many meal jobs that needed to be done.

But Jesus reverses this. He is the host of the meal, and it is he that gets down and washes the feet of his guests. Peter objects until Jesus tells him that the washing of feet – the service to others – is necessary if we are to be sharers in the life of Jesus. The church has always seen this as the first ordinations – Jesus’ way of showing his apostles what they must do if they are to be his priests, if they are to take over his mission of spreading the Gospel.

“If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” That was his admonition to them – to be servants to all. It amazes me how over the years Bishops have become almost kingly in their garb and attitude, when it so clearly shows in the Gospel, that they are to remain humble, servant-like and helpful to their flock.

So today is a reminder for priests and deacons and a reminder to the faithful. Let us be the people who take seriously the meaning of the Eucharist, become constantly more aware of Christ within us as a result of the eucharistic meal, be constantly reminded of our mandate to help others and each other, and spread the love unto death that Holy Thursday is so much about. I myself have experienced the caring of this parish and am more and more aware of how this is part of being in the St. Andrew’s community. May God pour abundant blessings on all of you over the next few days as we celebrate together the most important feasts in our church year! And this is the Good News I wish to give you tonight!

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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