Homily for Holy Thursday (Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper)
Theme: Sacrament of the Holy Orders
By: Fr. Benny Tuazon
(Jn. 13:1-15) HOLY THURSDAY – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
In today’s Gospel we have the account of the washing of the feet of the apostles by Jesus. We wonder what has it to do with the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the ministry of the priesthood which are also given importance today.
The first and second readings give us the background for today’s celebration. The first reading gives an account of the preparations and celebration of the Passover meal. It is a remembrance of the time when the first born male children of Israel were spared from death and the journey of the Israelites through the desert to the Promise Land. They remember that God had been faithful to His promise to protect Israel. God saves. The second reading was St. Paul’s testimony of the institution of the Holy Eucharist which replaced the Passover of the Jews. After the death of Jesus, a new Passover is celebrated, the Holy Eucharist.
Yet man had always been unfaithful to the covenant, i.e. they were disobeying His commandments and worshipping other gods who will satisfy their needs. But God, no matter how sinful man had become, will never abandon them. This time He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save man ONCE AND FOR ALL. It means that Jesus’ saving action will be the definitive act of God to save man. The ever newness of this saving action, Jesus’ death on the cross, happens in every Holy Eucharist celebrated. That was why Jesus had to institute it before His death.
And to insure its celebration, therefore its availability, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Chosen men will be selected and ordained to live their lives for the Holy Eucharist. At the centre of the priesthood is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist which makes available Gods’ saving action in Jesus Christ. The Holy Eucharist is salvific.
Which brings us to the washing of the feet. It is interesting to note that John’s Gospel had no account of the Last Supper. For John, the message of the Last Supper is best revealed in the ritual of the washing of the feet. It does not mean that John did not recognize the institution of the Holy Eucharist in the Last Supper. It only means that the Last Supper and the washing of the feet both took place before Jesus’ death and both comprise the same message which is service. This was shown when Peter refused to be washed by Jesus. Jesus replied, ”Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Then, He commanded them to wash each other’s feet, and the other disciples too as a sign of their love for each other and their commitment to love everyone through service.
At the end of every Holy Eucharist celebrated is the commandment to go and spread the Good News, peace, and serve our neighbours. The Christian Faith is not only doing rituals but enfleshing those to others. The washing of the feet gives the message that nothing should stop the Christian from serving. Easy or hard, long or brief, big or small, in season and out of season, the service must be given to a needy neighbor. Service here does not only mean time, talent, and treasure. It means offering oneself for the good of the other. The good of the other is the salvation of the other. The washing of the feet is the work of a slave. You cannot go any lower in service than washing the feet of another. In the same way, you can not decline serving any neighbor no matter how difficult is the situation.
Jesus chose the best way to evangelize. When Christians love each other, others cannot help but be awed and magnetized and ask to be baptized to the faith. A witness of love saves the lover and the beloved. Let us commit to serve one another at all times, all costs, and all situations.
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