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Holy Thursday Homily 2015

Holy Thursday, Year A
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15
April 2, 2015

The Passover stood placed at the head of the Jewish calendar and the Jews celebrated it as a “memorial feast” and as a “perpetual institution.”

When we call it a “memorial feast” it is not just a “play” that remembers something from the past.  Its goal is to make present what happened in the past.  As a “perpetual institution” it was not celebrated just once but each and every year.

It is also a feast that is celebrated in each household in the same way.  When we have a party for ourselves we choose how to celebrate it.  The way the Passover was to be celebrated was given by God.

The Passover was a celebration of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  An unblemished lamb was offered as a sacrifice and unleavened bread was used because they had to leave quickly, without time to wait to leaven the bread.

In setting them free from slavery, the Passover was a transformative event in Salvation history of the Jewish people.

Jesus was a good Jew and so He celebrated the Passover each year.  Tonight we celebrate the last time He celebrated the Passover before His Crucifixion.

Jesus took the great feast of the Jews that was fundamental to their identity and transformed it into what we celebrate as a “perpetual feast”, the Eucharist.

Jesus himself took the bread and made His Body.  He took the wine and made it His Blood and told us to do this in remembrance of him.

The Eucharist is at the core of who we are as Catholics but it is not an event by itself.  It can only be properly understood in conjunction with Jesus’ Crucifixion that we will celebrate tomorrow.  In the Eucharist Jesus gives us His Body and Blood that He willingly gives up for us on the Cross.

John adds one important element to Jesus’ celebration of the Last Supper that is important for us to be able to understand what it means to be a Eucharistic People, the Washing of the Feet.

The word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.”  If we truly value what Jesus has given us, we must realize that as Jesus does for us, we must do for others.  So, in the washing of the feet, Jesus gives us “a model to follow.”

This night is known for Jesus’ Institution of the Eucharist but it is also seen as the institution of the priesthood for without priests we cannot celebrate the Eucharist.

In baptism, we are all called to be priest, prophet, and king, willing to make sacrifices for others, to share God’s word, and to serve others.

As an ordained priest, I am called to do this is a particular way.  As an ordained priest, I am the one called to preside at the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

As an ordained priest, I am trained in a particular way to proclaim God’s Word in preaching at Mass.

As an ordained priest, I am called to serve you in a particular way.  Nothing I do as a priest should be about me.  I have needs like everyone else but priesthood comes first.  In accepting celibacy, I am available in a way that I don’t see possible if I had a family of my own.

In a moment I will wash the feet of twelve of our parishioners.  They are a diverse group ranging from one who will receive First Communion next month to the retired.  From people who will be baptized and received into our Church at the Vigil to people who have been part of our parish their whole lives.  Some serve at Mass while others serve in other ways.

It reminds all of us of what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  For me, it is a humble reminder of my call to serve you.

This is not an easy task.  There are days I do not feel capable of being your priest and pastor.  I accomplish what I do only by God’s grace.

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