Catholic homily for Holy Thursday (Mass of the Lord’s Supper)
Theme: THE FEAST OF LOVE AND SERVICE
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka.
R1 – Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
RESP PS – Ps 116:12-13,15-18
R2 – 1Cor 11: 23-26
GOSPEL – Jn 13: 1-15
Osho Rajneesh, a controversial self acclaimed incarnate “godman” with millions of followers across India, was once asked the difference between Buddha the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ. Rajneesh told a story to distinguish between Buddha and Christ. When Buddha was on his deathbed, his disciple Anand, asked him for a memorial and Buddha gave him a Jasmine flower. However, as the flower dried up, the memory of Buddha also dwindled. But Jesus Christ instituted a lasting memorial without anybody’s asking for it by offering his Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine and commanding his disciples to share his Divinity by repeating the ceremony. So Jesus continues to live in his followers while Buddha lives only in history books.
Beloved in Christ, today is Holy Thursday; popularly called, “Maundy Thursday.” It is as well known as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The day the Church invites us to reflect on two of the most important Ad Memoriam mandates of Jesus: The institution of the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood: The feast of “Stole and Towel,” love and service.
Traditionally, we commemorate three great and outstanding anniversaries that form the heart and source of the church’s mission, which gives direction, vitality and inspiration to the body of Christ, the Church, viz:
(1) The anniversary of the first Holy Mass (Institution of the Holy Eucharist)
2) The anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, to convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners, and to preach the Good News of salvation
(3) The anniversary of Jesus’ promulgation of his new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
It is equally a day we recall how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. Jesus concluded and replaced the Seder meal with its roasted Paschal lamb by giving his apostles his own body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine as spiritual food and drink. A gesture of love bound in service.
*LOVE AND SERVICE*
The two great Sacraments of love and service we commemorate today, are
symbolically, represented by the STOLE and TOWEL. Bishop Tony Bello, on Maundy Thursday of 1993, while on his deathbed, dictated a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese titled, STOLE and TOWEL. He called upon them to be bound up by the ‘Stole and the Towel.’
The Stole symbolizes union with Christ in the Eucharist and the Towel symbolizes union with humanity by service (The ministries of love and service). The Stole represents the Dignity of the Priest, the Towel stands for the Duty of the Priest. The priest is called upon to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist and with the people as their servant.
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The Eucharist and Priesthood are two interwoven sacraments of love that cannot go without each other and lived out in service to God and humanity. That is why, there is no Priesthood without the Eucharist and there is no Eucharist without the priesthood. Then, there will be no viable Eucharist celebration and institutionalized priesthood without love, and love itself becomes deficient, without the towel of service.
The ministries of Stole and Towel, which symbolize our services to God and humanity are clearly upheld in Jesus’ Last Testament as described in today’s Gospel text, “you should wash each other’s feet,” and St Paul’s representation of the institution of the Holy Eucharist in the Second reading.
(1) *WASH EACH OTHERS’ FEET*
Jesus, by washing the feet of his disciples, challenges us towards being altruistic; offering humble services for the good of humanity, both inside of us and outside of us. When we do so, we love and serve Jesus and equally revere Jesus’ presence in one another.
(2) *IMBIBE THE SPIRIT OF SACRIFICE AND SELF-GIVING*
By giving his Divinity and offering us his body and blood as food, Jesus extends the same loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the self-giving model of Jesus who shares with us his own Body and Blood and who enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. We realize this by sacrificing our talents, time, and blessings in the spirit of self-giving with others. This is the only way we could actualize and obey this Last Testament of Love and Service: “Love one another as I have loved you by washing each other’s feet.”
(3) *ENDEAVOUR TO PARTICIPATE IN THE AD MEMORIAM AND LAST TESTAMENT OF JESUS*
The second reading of today’s liturgy, chides us never to relent in proclaiming Christ’s death, through a continuous participation in the Eucharistic table. This strengthens us to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers, who are charged to go and glorify the Lord by our lives at the end of the Mass.
Finally, a few months before he died in 1979, Bishop Fulton Sheen gave a television interview. The reporter asked, “Your Excellency, you have inspired millions. Who inspired you? Was it the Pope?” Bishop Sheen responded that it was not the Pope or a cardinal or another bishop or even a priest or nun. It was an eleven-year-old girl. He explained that when the Communists took over China in the late forties, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory. Looking through the window, the priest saw the soldier enter the Church and break open the tabernacle, scattering the Blessed Sacrament on the floor. The priest knew the exact number of hosts in the tabernacle: thirty-two. Unnoticed by the soldiers, a young girl had been praying in the back of the church and she hid when they came in. That night the girl returned and spent an hour in prayer. She then entered the sanctuary, knelt and bent over to take one of the hosts on her tongue. The girl came back each night, spent an hour in prayer and received Jesus by picking up a sacred host with her tongue. The thirty-second night, after consuming the final host, she made an accidental sound awakening a guarding soldier. He ran after her and when he caught her, he struck her with the rifle butt. The noise woke the priest -but too late. From his house he saw the girl die. Bishop Sheen said that when he heard about this, it inspired him so much that he made a promise that he would spend one hour each day before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He always said that the power of his priesthood came from the Eucharist.
MAY GOD HELP US TO HOLD TENACIOUSLY, UNTO THE TRITO-TESTAMENTAL MANDATE JESUS GAVE US, BY LOVING AND SERVING HIM IN REVERING THE REAL PRESENCE OF JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST AND VALUING THE MINISTERIAL PRIESTHOOD.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
*DO HAVE A FRUITFUL HOLY WEEK CELEBRATION.*
_FR GERALD MUOKA
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