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Holy Thursday Homily

Holy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15
March 29, 2018

In recent weeks we have heard Jesus speak of “his hour.”  Today we hear this hour identified as the hour where he passes “from this world to the Father.”

This verse referring to Jesus’ passing occurs at the Last Supper so it is not simply the exact time of his death.  It is more than that.

Let us begin by looking at when God chooses this to happen.  It is not just a random date.  He chooses the time of the Passover that was placed at the head of the calendar from the time of the first Passover.  The Passover is a “memorial feast”, “a perpetual institution.”

The Passover is an event that defines the Jews as a people.  It is the event where God sets his people free from slavery in Egypt.  This showed that God was not just a local god with power only in his own land but that He is the one true God and is God everywhere.

The Passover was celebrated from the time of the Exodus to the time of Jesus with the sacrifice of a lamb “without blemish.

The Passover is the time God chooses to be Jesus’ hour.

Like the Passover, Jesus’ hour is not simply an hour in history.  It is the time of our salvation.  In the Passover God set his people free from slavery in Egypt.  In Jesus’ hour, we are set free from slavery to our sins.

As much as the Jews were defined by the Passover, we are shaped by what we celebrate as Jesus’ hour.

Yet, it is not just one hour.  What we celebrate as Jesus’ hour takes place over three days, what we call the “Easter Triduum.”  It begins with the Eucharist.  What Jesus did at the Last Supper and what he tells us to do “in remembrance” of him is the Eucharist.

So, we call what we Jesus did then “the Institution of the Eucharist.”  It is Jesus’ Body and Blood.  To celebrate the Eucharist as a liturgy we need a priest to preside.  Hence, tonight is also seen as “the Institution of the Priesthood.”

This leads us to the washing of the feet.  By his example, Jesus shows us what it means to serve others.  He is the master.  The washing of feet was the role of a servant.  Jesus is our king but he does not come that we might serve him.  He comes to serve us.  This is an example for all of us but in a special way for priests.

In the Passover celebration a lamb was sacrificed.  A priest is one who offers sacrifice.  We call the Eucharist a sacrifice.  What is sacrificed?  Jesus.

This leads back to how I said that Jesus’ hour was not just one hour in time but an event spread over three days.  The sacrifice offered in the Eucharist is Jesus’ giving of his life on the Cross.  It is in this context that he speaks of the bread and wine as his Body and Blood given up for us, given up on the Cross.

So, as Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”  Every time we celebrate Mass, we are celebrating the Eucharist as the sacrifice of the Crucifixion.

So, that is two days.  Day 3 is the Resurrection.  We will hear of Jesus’ Crucifixion tomorrow and his Resurrection at Easter but as we proceed into our Triduum and reflect on the Eucharist, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, we must realize they are not three different events.  They are one event and can only be fully understand when they tied together.

We will celebrate this gift of the Eucharist in a few minutes but first we will celebrate “The Washing of the Feet.”  I will take off my chasuble just as Jesus took off his outer garment.  The outer garment can be a sign of status but being a priest is not about status.  It is about serving.

Twelve people will come forward.  They are not chosen because of some great thing they do.  They are chosen to represent all our parishioners.

As I get down on my knees, I will wash one foot of each person.  This washing is not for physical cleaning.  It reminds us of our need for God to cleanse our souls.

For me, it is a very humbly experience.  It is not about me.  As I go from person to person, I don’t see just twelve individuals.  I see all the people of the parish whom I have been called to serve.  I have been called to help make Jesus’ presence visible in your lives.

The Eucharist is key.  It is the Real Presence of Jesus.  I can’t say this enough.  Because of grace I receive in presiding I have NO DOUBT that it is Jesus.  It is Jesus giving his life for us.  It is the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is his Body and Blood.

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