Holy Thursday Homily
People today are always on the run. They try to accomplish many things at the same time and often they are catching themselves coming and going. The book of Exodus this evening speaks of eating Passover meal with your “loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand. You shall eat like those who are in flight.” Are the Israelites doing this because they are too busy? Do they have time management problems?
The answer to this is, of course, no. God reminds the people that they are only visitors in this world. They are simply passing through and will one day arrive at the permanent place, life with God in heaven. This world is not an end in itself, but a path to a greater life. That greater life though has been derailed by sin. We cannot get ourselves on track. We are held in the terrible grip of slavery to sins and selfishness.
On this Feast of Holy Thursday and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus himself is opening the door for us to the greater life that his death and resurrection will bring about. The Bread that is used at the Passover is unleavened, called the bread of affliction. It is hard and tough to chew, but it nourishes just as well. Jesus gives us the bread of affliction at the Passover because we live in affliction in this world. Things do not always work right. We have setbacks and failures and struggles. Faith is a constant challenge for us. But these are not to stop us. By us giving us his Body, this bread of affliction becomes for us the Bread of Life, the food that is his very life, that gives us the grace to endure and to overcome and to prosper especially when we are weary and fearful. Jesus gives us the Holy Eucharist so that we do not give up.
He also knows that for this food to continue, he needs to provide those who share in Christ’s life in a unique way. So on this night he institutes the sacrament of Orders, the holy Priesthood. These men are his shepherds who feed, lead and protect the flock of the Church. They are given through the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands the authority to heal, teach and forgive in Christ’s name to encourage them on their path of faith. The mission to which the priest is called is to make of himself an offering in the person of Christ for the people entrusted to him, so that they will be kept safe in this dangerous world and provided with the gifts necessary to continue on through this passing life with joy and hope.
Finally, Jesus gives his disciples the Great command: love another as I have loved you. His followers are not to rely only on their knowledge or their talents or their social connections. They are to rely on the love of God. This giving in love that is expressed in the Last Supper has now become the measure of what it means to be a Christian in the world.
The mission given to every believer is the same, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus gives us this mission because of the struggles we face in life. We have not been created to face them alone. We have not been abandoned to fend for ourselves. Jesus makes this crystal clear on this night. He gives us each other and makes it possible for us not only through his example, but by the power of the Holy Spirit
Jesus is changing the world tonight. He is changing how he is going to be with us. He makes it clear that in the suffering and death he is about to endure, he takes it up freely out of love for us and for the Father. God loves us enough to die for us. He keeps our souls strong as we move through this world by feeding us with his own Body and Blood. He is opens up the door to a new life with him to help us focus on what lasts, so that we do not get distracted by the passing things of this world. Let us take this time tonight to keep watch with Jesus, so that as the world changes, and the storms continue to blow we can remain faithful to him so as to reach our goal: everlasting life.