HOLY THURSDAY - Fr. Randall P. Patterson
As we gather tonight we come with memories of recent fires and floods and even earthquakes -that have left behind desolation and heartache. Yet in the midst of the chaos – we’ve seen examples of generous service. People rushed to assist their fellow human beings not counting the cost to themselves - rescuing people in the midst of burning buildings – digging people out of fallen rubble. Celebrities sponsor benefit concerts. Ordinary people send financial aid. Disasters get us to do - what Jesus told us to do - at the last supper: “What I have done for you, you should do for one another.” Today we celebrate two sacraments of service - Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist. Both sacraments commission followers of Jesus - to do what he did – when he washed the disciples’ feet.
Holy Orders is a sacrament for service. Jesus did the work of a slave when he washed his disciples’ feet. Peter was correct to object – after all - Jesus – Lord and Master – should not demean himself in such a way. Jesus disagrees with Peter – he does not cling to any divine privilege – this master takes on the nature of a slave. If Peter was to have anything to do with Jesus – he would have to humble himself – and he eventually did – dying on a cross like Jesus.
Later in the meal – Jesus would say: “Do this in memory of me.” The Church - sees in these words – the institution of the ministerial priesthood. Jesus commissioned the apostles to carry on his work. That is why – on this night – priests from the pope down – repeat the ritual of washing of the feet – as a reminder of the essence of their vocation. Priests are called to serve.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist – also given to us at the Last Supper – enables all God’s people to live a life of service. Jesus did not limit his mandate to the clergy. He intends us to be a community of people who wash each other’s feet – it’s who we are. He gave his body and blood as food – so that all of us could take him into ourselves and let him transform us into himself.
When we eat his flesh and drink his blood – he abides in us and we in him. We become the body of Christ – alive in the world in every age. As the body of Christ - we do what Jesus did.
Some might say – “Sure, Jesus made the blind see & the deaf hear but I can’t do that.” So Jesus gave us an example – one that each person could do. He bent down and washed his disciples’ feet – even though they called him Master.
Holy Thursday is a feast of love Jesus put himself totally into the signs of bread and wine – as he was to pour out his life - the next day - on the cross. And he calls us to give of ourselves - as he has given of himself. We empty ourselves in service to one another and the world. We wash one another’s feet.
Pope Benedict gives us a wonderful reflection regarding the washing of the feet. He comments that Jesus washes our feet all through our lives.
God doesn’t want to trample on us – but kneels down before us so as to exalt us. The mystery of the greatness of God is seen precisely in the fact that he can be small…Only when power is changed from the inside and we accept Jesus and his way of life, whose whole self is there in the action of foot-washing, only then can the world be healed and the people be able to live at peace with one another.
After holy Communion tonight – we will have a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose – followed by adoration. This is an opportunity for us to reflect on the wonderful love that has been poured out on us - through the two sacraments of Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist.
Take some time in silence to give thanks for the priesthood and pray that we priests will remain faithful to our vocation. May Adam Feisthamel and others follow in our footsteps.
Reflect on the call of every Christian to become Christ in the world by feeding on the Holy Eucharist. Thank God for those who empty themselves so generously day by day. Ask for the grace to live out what is symbolized by tonight’s washing of the feet.
Lord Jesus, the Lamb of the new Passover feast:
Lord have mercy
Lord Jesus, bread blessed and broken for us:
Christ have mercy
Lord Jesus, teacher and model of humble service:
Lord have mercy