Homily – Holy Thursday MMXIII

Homily – Holy Thursday MMXIII                3/28/13

During the Washing of the Feet at the Holy Thursday Mass, the rubrics of the Roman Missal state that certain chants or other suitable hymns are to be sung while the priest washes the feet.

One of the centuries old antiphons that are found in the Missal is the following:

Let faith, hope and charity, these three, remain among you,
    but the great of these is charity.

And that antiphon pretty much sums up what we celebrate this night.

Jesus wants his Church as a whole, and his disciples who follow him as individuals, to cherish nothing in this life, to have nothing in this life, and to hold on to nothing in this life, except those three things:   faith, hope and charity.

When the Church makes those three things central, Christianity flourishes, conversions abound, and the Gospel takes firm root in our culture.    But when the Church fails to do so, Christianity withers, people abandon the True Faith and are swept away by the latest ideology, and a Catholic Culture is replaced more and more by a secular, anti-Catholic one.

But tonight, Jesus, who does not leave us orphans, gives the Church Three Gifts which help her keep Faith, Hope and Charity Central in her life and the life of each disciple:    The Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the New Commandment

First, the Eucharist:   We call it not The Sacrament, not even The Blessed Sacrament, but rather The Most Blessed Sacrament

We believe it to be Jesus Himself, the God Man, the Son of Mary, the Lord, here with us, 24/7, as Present to us in the Host as he was present to the disciples when he walked the streets of Galilee, healing, delivering from demons, teaching and converting hearts.

And really, it is the Eucharist, and nothing else, that glues the Church together, that should glue our parish and every parish together.   We come here as Catholics, not for a Spiritual Experience – although we probably should get that; not for inspiring liturgies, sermons and music – although we should strive for both of  those things; not out of the social custom that good Americans should be church goers, or because the Third Commandment and Church law binds us to do so – although if that helps us get out of bed on Sunday to get here, that’s fine;

No, we come here as Catholics first and foremost to meet Jesus Christ, who each Sunday looks forward so much to see us, who weeps and is broken hearted when we don’t show up for no good reason, but who lavishes his love and blessings on us every single time we attend Mass, even if we don’t or can’t receive.

Let faith, hope and charity, these three, remain among you . . . . and when it comes to the Eucharist, all one can have before it is Faith, Hope and Charity.   We have only Faith that tells us it is Jesus, true God and true Man. Doesn’t look like God or Man, looks like bread and wine.  Physical science would tell us it still is bread and wine.

Why on earth should we believe it becomes Jesus? Because He said it: This is my Body. Not this symbolizes my Body. As one of the greatest fiction writers of the 20th Century Flannery O’Connor, said, “if its just a symbol, to hell with it.”    O’Connor went on to say “this is all I will ever be able to say about (the Eucharist) .  .  . except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

And so we, like her, have Faith and only Faith that the Eucharist is truly Jesus alive and present among us, we have Hope that the graces we get from the Eucharist will give us the spiritual strength we need to persevere in faith each day until we die and Jesus brings us to Heaven,  and most importantly, we Love Jesus here and now in the Eucharist, we give ourselves, heart, mind, body and soul, totally and unreservedly to Jesus and His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church, surrendering our wills to His will, leaving all and following him out of love for him who so loved us.

And by the strength we get from the Eucharist we also are enabled to show true Love and Charity to our neighbors, especially to the most insignificant members of society such as the poor, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, the unborn in the womb, the newly conceived human being, and the dying, and even to love and forgive our enemies.

To give us this Greatest of Gifts until the end of time, Jesus tonight also gives us the Gift of the Priesthood.  Do this, you Twelve Men whom I have chosen, in memory of me.

You say This is my Body, this is my Blood.  At that moment your body will be my body, your blood my blood, your words my words . . . . Mysterium Fidei, the Mystery of Faith.

Priests are the guardians and ministers of the Eucharist, and therefore Priests are the guardians and ministers of Faith, Hope and Love in this world.   A Priest much each day make the words of Christ his own: Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.

A priest must say “As much as I would naturally desire a spouse, my own children and grandchildren, my own home, a private life, a fulfilling career in whatever I am naturally good at, each day, and in each phase of my life, I as a priest must hear Christ’s call to freely and whole-heartedly sacrifice all those things, and replace them solely with Faith, Hope and Love, and in them and in them alone will I find my Peace and Joy and Fulfillment”

Boy, and all I can say to you is, some times, that’s not easy. We priests all need your prayers and support as much as you need ours.  And I want to thank everyone tonight for all the prayers and support you have given me these past ten years.  Yes, I’ve been here going on ten years – time flies!  Some of you are saying “When will he ever leave?”

Finally, Jesus tonight gives us the New Commandment, Love one another as I have loved you.

At the beginning of the Year of Faith last October, Pope Benedict issued a Letter called Porta Fidei, the Door of Faith.   In the letter he said ‘Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other; in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path.’

And therefore it seems that our Catholic Church is greatly blessed to have Pope Francis, a man solidly Catholic in his Faith, and at the same time a man of great charity to the poor and to the common man and woman.

He truly is the Pope we need at this time.  The past two Popes needed to focus on relaying the foundations of our Catholic faith after the upheaval of Vatican II.  But now that the dust has settled and the Faith has been again firmly planted so that everyone knows just what the Catholic Church believes and hopes, now is the time we show the world how the Catholic Church loves.

May those three gifts given to us tonight, The Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the New Commandment, help us who are called to be the Church, to be the Light of the World and Salt of the Earth, to  Let faith, hope and charity, these three, and only these three remain among you, but the great of these is charity.

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