Holy Thursday – 2015
Exo.12:1-8, 11-14, 1 Cor.11:23-26, Jn.13:1-15
There is an absolutely terrible old joke about a bill collector in Georgia who knocked on the door of a client who lived out in a rural area. This client owed the bill collector’s company money. “Is Fred home?” he asked the woman who answered the door.” Sorry,” the woman replied. “Fred’s gone for cotton.” The next day the collector tried again. “Is Fred here today?”
“No, sir,” she said, “I’m afraid Fred has gone for cotton.” When he returned the third day, he said sarcastically, “I suppose Fred is gone for cotton again?” “No,” the woman answered solemnly, “Fred died yesterday.” Suspicious that he was being avoided, the bill collector decided to wait a week and check out the cemetery himself.
Sure enough, there was poor Fred’s tombstone. On it was this inscription: “Gone, But Not for Cotton.” That’s terrible, I know, but it is a reminder that tonight as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim that Christ is neither gone nor forgotten. We assert our faith that He is present, here with us, as we receive Holy Communion in remembrance of him.
Today we celebrate the feast of the First Mass. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The first reading from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover. In the second reading, Paul quotes another source for this tradition. He says he received this “from the Lord,” suggesting that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church.
Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. First He washed His Apostles’ feet – a tender reminder of His undying affection for them; then He commanded them to do the same for each other. The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us.
Finally, He gave His Apostles His own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, Jesus washed their feet, fed them and then went out to die. Jesus’ washing of the feet taught the disciples that no person is better than any other, and no person is worse than any other. He taught them that the rituals of their daily lives could be transformed.
So, from now on, when a mother wipes the face of her child or when a father gives his children a bath, washing of the feet is repeated. Also, this simple gesture of Jesus reminds us that love knows no bounds and excludes no one. Whether Pope or President or Prime Minister, street person or welfare recipient, we are all called to stoop to serve.
We need to serve humbly. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, even when they don’t deserve our love. It is to do good to them, even if they don’t return the favor.
It is to consider others’ needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even if they don’t say, “I’m sorry.” It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know that we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we’re treated unfairly.
Let us imitate the Self-giving model of Jesus Who shares with us His Body and Blood and enriches us with His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true Disciples of Christ and obey His new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Amen.