Readings & Reflections: Holy Thursday– Mass of the Lord’s Supper & St. Martin I, April 13,2017
“When the Lord of the world comes and undertakes the slave’s task of foot-washing – which is an illustration of the way he washes our feet al through our lives – we have a totally different picture. God doesn’t want to trample on us, but kneels down before us so as to exalt us. The mystery of the greatness of God is seen precisely in the fact that he can be small…. Only when power is changed from the inside, and we accept Jesus and his way of life, whose whole self is there in the action of foot-washing, only then can the world be healed and the people be able to live at peace with one another” (Pope Benedict XVI).
“Lord Jesus, your love conquers all and never fails. Help me to love others freely, with heart-felt compassion, kindness and goodness. Where there is injury, may I sow peace rather than strife.” In Your Name, I pray. AMEN.
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt(I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.
“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”
The word of the Lord.
Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
R. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16) Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
1 Cor 11:23-26
Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
The word of the Lord.
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Wash one another’s feet
“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘ teacher ‘ and ‘master, ‘ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another ‘ s feet.”
God’s order, “Love one another as I have loved you” means our love for His people should be wholehearted, absolute and unconditional. . When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples He showed us how we should humble ourselves to give service to our neighbor, even to one who is lowly and poor, even to the one who we know hates us and with flip of a coin, will betray us and exchange us for anything.
In all our relationships, Jesus teaches us that our love is far from His unless we repay evil with good, forgive everything and are even willing to repay with kindness those who have done us harm. Jesus Who gave His life for our salvation tells us that our love is incomplete if we cannot sacrifice ourselves generously for others. Just like His love, our love for each other should have no limits, not even death, a norm, He has given us to measure up to. If there is a limit, it is that of giving one’s life for others, for “greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13
In God’s vision, there is no “they”, only “we”, no strangers, only brothers and sisters. As such no one should be left outside the circle of our love. We should be able to care for each other and draw the best from one another and help others find their way to our Lord. We should be able to lift each other up and build up one another so that we are instrumental in the wholeness and healing of God’s people.
Everything we have: life, breath, family, hopes, dreams, loves, and every sort of gift and talent – God gave to us, all unearned, should be shared and given back to His people, to His children who need them.
“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” If Jesus Who is the master and teacher, washed the feet of His first disciples, then we ought to do the same and wash one another’s feet. Let us always endeavor to follow Jesus. With what we witnessed in today’s gospel, God brings to our hearts today the very essence of Christian leadership: SERVANTHOOD.
To lead like Christ- is to serve one another, minister to one another, carry each other’s burdens, lift each other up, pray for one another, love one another and die for one another- serve anonymously even up to the Cross.
Just as Jesus has done to us, we too should do to all men. What is the best way to follow the example of Jesus? Whose feet will you wash? Say it another way, who will you serve? Who will you allow to wash your feet? Who will you allow to serve you? It does not make sense to honor Jesus in the Eucharist if we fail to serve Him in one another.
Serve one another in love by opting to give the very best to our neighbor… Jesus Himself!
Heavenly Father, help me serve my brothers and sisters. In Jesus, I pray.
Reflection 2 – Love is in the Air!
Tonight we begin what is called the Paschal Triduum: the three most sacred and important days of the year. They are Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. These three days are to be seen as one celebration. Holy Thursday leads to Good Friday. The sufferings and death of Jesus on Good Friday are meaningless without the victory of resurrection on Easter. But Easter is not possible without Good Friday. So it may not be proper to greet “Happy Easter” before Good Friday.
Tonight we celebrate the Last Supper of Our Lord. We recall the supreme act of love by Jesus on the night before he suffered: “Jesus knew that his hour has come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” Jesus decided to leave a lasting memorial of love to his disciples.
He gathered his disciples at table for a meal. But it was no ordinary meal. It was a Passover Meal, wherein the Jewish people would recall the wondrous works of Yahweh in bringing them out of slavery of Egypt into freedom in the Promised Land.
But why did Jesus choose a meal as the venue for imparting his lasting memorial of love? As we all know, giving nourishment is an expression and sign of love. As a mother nurses her infant at her breasts as a sign of her love, so also Jesus has shown his love by giving food to his people. But at the Last Supper, he was not just giving them food. He himself is the food. Holding the bread, he said: “This is my body; eat it.” Holding the cup filled with wine, he said: “This is my blood; drink it.”
Many people may ask: how could this happen? This was the same question that the Jews who heard him murmured: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” This question is pointless. Jesus is God, and nothing is impossible with Him. The more appropriate question should be: Why? Why did Jesus decide to make himself just simple bread and an ordinary wine? The answer is very clear: because he loves us so much: “He loved them to the end.” He even promised: “I will be with you always until the end of time.” So he humbled and emptied himself: from being God, he became man; and from being man, he became just simple bread and wine. So, at the Last Supper, he instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Second Vatican Council calls “the source and summit of Christian life.”
Holy Thursday, then, is the Feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In this sacrament we experience the love of God for mankind for we receive the greatest gift He can ever give us – the very body and blood of His Beloved Son. Furthermore, in the Eucharist, we make present the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Although he instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, it cannot be reduced to a meal. Pope Benedict XVI pointed this out: “The Eucharist that Christians celebrate really cannot adequately be described by the term ‘meal’….The EUCHARIST was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper in the framework and context of a meal. But what he instituted was an entirely new and different reality, that is, his SACRIFICE on the cross that he commanded us to repeat” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 78).
However, there is another sacrament that Jesus instituted at the Last Supper. Take note of what he said: “Do this in memory of me.” Memory or remembrance, as used in the Bible, is not just remembering a past event. Rather, it means making present a past event. Such has been the understanding of the Jewish people when they celebrate the Passover. We saw that in tonight’s first reading from Exodus.
The sacrifice that Jesus offered in Calvary was done only once. But since he himself is God, this single sacrificial offering has an eternal dimension and implication: it happened in the past, but it continues to happen now and for eternity. We were not in Calvary during that first Good Friday. But in the Eucharist, Jesus makes present to us his sacrifice. It is the same sacrifice of Jesus on the cross being made present to us in the here and now. That is why it is often referred to as the “bloodless” sacrifice of Jesus. St. Paul said: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
Now, the question is: who will do this “making present” of the sacrifice? Looking, then, at his disciples, Jesus said: “Do this in memory of me.” So, on this Holy Thursday, Jesus also instituted the Priesthood. There is an intimate and inseparable link between the Eucharist and ministerial priesthood. He had formed the apostles for three years so that his authority would be their authority. “He who hears you hears me.” But this night he made them priests when he said those words, “Do this in memory of me.” This new priesthood would offer the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Today, therefore, is also the Feast of the Priesthood.
The priesthood is not about honor and prestige, nor about power and domination; rather, it is all about humble service. Jesus instituted the sacrament of the priesthood so that his sacrifice will continue to be made present to His people; to make him always available to his people. The ministerial priesthood is, after all, in service of the common priesthood of all the baptized. To illustrate this, while at supper, Jesus stood up, removed his outer garment, and washed the feet of his disciples. At first they resisted. They could not accept that their Master will do an act meant for a slave. They were simply embarrassed. But for Jesus it was an unmistakable expression of his humility and desire to serve his people. And afterwards he challenged them: “If I, therefore, the Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Positions of authority in the Church are not for prestige and domination but for service and love. At the same time, washing of the feet is symbolic of the washing of our sins in the sacrament of Penance. It is also a reminder that to worthily approach the Eucharist in Holy Communion, our hearts must be clean and free from sins through God’s pardon in the sacrament of Confession.
Every time we come to this celebration of the Eucharist, let us always be reminded that we are celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross being made present to us. Let us also pray for our priests so that they will always enjoy God’s protection and guidance to faithfully fulfill their ministry of bringing Jesus to his people. And let us make sure that our Eucharistic celebration will always be a celebration of love: God’s love for us, and our love for one another (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).
Reflection 4 – A lasting supper
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” We have heard these words before Communion for as long as we can remember and we have been happy indeed. We have heard these words and been happy because of what happened at the Last Supper. This evening we thank God for the Eucharist and the priesthood instituted by Jesus Christ that day.
The Lord’s Last Supper was also a Lasting Supper. It was the last Passover meal Jesus ate on earth, but it gave us a lasting sacrifice, the Eucharist, which fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi: “For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; and every where they bring sacrifice to my name, and pure offering” (Mal 11:1).
The supper Jesus ate with his apostles the night before he died was the Passover meal of the Old Testament. The usual ceremony included four cups of ritual wine, unleavened bread, wild herbs and roast lamb. It commemorated the sacrifice of a lamb on the eve of Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt, as described in the first reading (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14) this evening.
The Passover meal was not a sacrifice but it set the scene for the institution of an awesome one. Jesus would offer his death on a cross as a sacrifice for our redemption the next day, Good Friday. He freely accepted death out of love for sinful mankind. On the evening of Holy Thursday Jesus anticipated his sacrifice sacramentally and commanded his apostles and their successors to renew it to the end of time, saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Through the power of Christ’s words bread become his Body, wine becomes his Blood, and his death on the cross is presented and re-presented in an unbloody way for the remission of sins. The Eucharist and the priesthood were thus given to a new Chosen People and a new Covenant was established between them and God in the blood of Jesus Christ. Believers are freed from slavery to sin, not forced labor in Egypt. A Promised Land is offered, not in Canaan but in heaven. A land “flowing with milk and honey” was not promised but everlasting happiness. “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Let us celebrate the feast…” (1 Cor 5:7-8).
There never was and never will be an evening like that of Christ’s Last Supper. No artist can ever capture its drama and significance. Lives were changed that night and without a doubt it was primarily through the power of the Body and Blood of Christ received by the apostles for the first time. It was the evening of Thursday, April 6, 30 A.D. Much happened in that Upper Room, or Cenacle, on Mount Sion. Besides the institution of the Eucharist and Priesthood, another event took place, one that has had a profound effect on Christians throughout the ages. It was Christ’s washing of the apostles’ feet described in the gospel. Nevertheless it does seem strange that the liturgy of Holy Thursday has a gospel about the washing of apostles’ feet and calls for a ceremony commemorating this event year after year. Surprising also is the prominence of the washing of feet ceremony after the homily. Most Catholics have never taken part in this ceremony. Indeed it is only optional and yet everyone seems to expect it. It must therefore be connected to the Eucharist.
The first thing that comes to mind after hearing the gospel is Christ’s example of humility, which all in positions of authority, especially in the Church, should follow.
Some say fraternal charity is the lesson. Washing guests’ feet at dinner in the time of Christ was a customary courtesy, a small service to be sure, but it can remind us that there are always other needs friends and neighbors have, many more pressing and urgent. The Eucharist is a powerful incentive to serve God and neighbor.
Perhaps we should look more closely at what our Lord did when he washed the apostles’ feet and what he intended. He took water and towel after the apostles quarreled over who was first among them. Jesus also knew Judas was already planning to betray him. He knew Peter would soon deny him and the other apostles would scatter and hide. Jesus was concerned about what was going on in the apostles’ souls. He was concerned about sin – pride, avarice, cowardice, disloyalty. These sinful, weak apostles were going to receive this Body and Blood soon. Not only their feet needed washing. Their souls need to be washed of sin. Only he could do this.
There was another “washing of feet incident” described in the Gospels. It was when a penitent woman (Lk 7:36-50) washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. There is no mistaking this gesture. She did it because she was sorry for her sins. Our Lord told her, “Your sins are forgiven.” In both instances the washing of feet was connected with sins, forgiveness of sins and Jesus forgiving them. But at the Last Supper Jesus washing the apostles’ feet was directly connected to the immediate preparation for Holy Communion.
Washing feet is only a sign. For the penitent woman – she wanted her sins to be forgiven. For the apostles – Jesus wanted to forgive them their sins. Jesus told Peter, “Not all of you are clean.” The Lord was not concerned abut dust on the apostles’ feet. He was saddened by their sins. He was preparing to die to have their sins forgiven – theirs, the sins of all mankind, our sins. This was their real need and they hardly knew it. This was Christ’s service – forgiveness – and he did it with love, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:11).
Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion is a wonderful privilege, but for this to be truly effective in our souls they must be washed clean of sin. This is done for baptized Catholics normally in the sacrament of reconciliation. Jesus could forgive sins on earth and promised to give his Church this power. He said to his apostles on the evening of his Resurrection, “Whose sins you forgive on earth, they are forgiven in heaven.” In so many words Jesus washes our feet, that is, washes our souls in preparation for Holy Communion. How many times we go to Communion is not as important as how well we are prepared for Communion. Every sin is a sign that we have not loved our Lord enough, and he loved us to the last drop of his blood on the cross.
There is a connection between Jesus washing the apostles’ feet and the Eucharist. There is a reason for including this washing of feet ceremony in the liturgy of Holy Thursday. One special reason is that we who go to Communion so often should also to confession often. (Source: Rev.George M. Franko, “Homilies on Liturgies of Sundays and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CIX, No. 6. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, March 2009, pp.35-37; Suggested Reading: The Catechsim of the Catholic Church, 610-611).
Reflection 5 – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Purpose: Meaning in Mystery. The simplicity of the first Eucharist. The simplicity of the Mystery.
Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc., all of these books and movies provide mystery, and the possibility of sharing in that mysterious world and mysterious story which gives us a sense of participation in them. It’s this sense of participation that excites us, and may even become so strong a sense of participation that it motivates how we live our lives and view reality. It is because of this capacity to capture our imagination, and provide us a sense of participation in a mystery that is greater than the self-perceived insignificance of the reality of our own lives, that these books and movies have had such a huge success. What this really bespeaks is humanity’s thirst to participate in a mystery that elevates our existence beyond the banalities of life.
The problem is our misconception of mystery and the supernatural. In this rationalistic age, we cannot accept as reality that which is beyond our sensible perception. This is what has caused such a vacuum of meaning and purpose in our lives. If all that we are is knowable, and the mysterious and supernatural is merely the sum of some mathematical formula, than our human existence is mechanical and, rightfully, empty of greater meaning and purpose. On the other hand, if mystery is fantasy, and the supernatural is magic, then all we are doing is duping ourselves by a fiction that leaves us even emptier of meaning and purpose, because it would be based on falsehood and unreality.
The mysterious and supernatural need not be based on our tomfoolery to believe in the empty show of magic and fantasies, rather true mystery is conveyed by the simple, real experience of concrete words, and works full of meaning that communicate a reality beyond their prima facie perception. Furthermore, the supernatural ought not contradict nature, but act with the natural, and express through the natural order of things, the presence of a higher order that provides what is natural a greater depth of meaning and purpose. Thus, the supernatural ordinarily communicates through the simplicity of the natural order, and not through theatrical bombasts and “special effects”.
The noble and yet simple, even humiliating and self-sacrificing, words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper—the first Eucharist and institution of the priesthood with the washing of the feet—become the sensory events that provide us with the ability to participate in a far greater mystery. The passing on of the priesthood onto the Apostles was through Christ’s humiliating himself in washing their feet in order to show that the priesthood is not a ministry of power, magic, or a fantastic show of supernatural nature altering majesty. But instead, it is through Christ’s humble, self-sacrificing, loving service. The Eucharist is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, sacredly veiled in mystery. It is the person of Jesus, true God and true man, truly present in this Sacrament. Even though it may not be immediately perceived by our senses, our understanding of what true mystery is allows us to see with eyes of faith Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist.
It is in the Eucharist that we see the pinnacle of mystery expressed in our midst. God, who takes the common, natural substances of bread, water, and wine, and through the priest—who is his chosen minister and who speaks in the very person of Christ Jesus himself—communicates the Logos, the very meaning of God, to the bread, water, and wine. This communication or dia–logos mediated by the priest between God and the offerings of bread, water, and wine cause the very essence of them to “blush” in the presence of God, and be changed into God himself. After all, in the presence of God, how can one not become like God; and if his essence through the Logos is communicated to the substances offered, how can they not become his true and real presence? This is true mystery; this is the true supernatural.
The true supernatural, God, does not come to destroy the natural, manifest power, or bestow on an elect some form of mastery of manipulative authority over others. Rather, God is love, and as love itself, he seeks to express his love for us through noble, yet simple, signs which will convey this mystery to us, and invite us to participate in his love, since that is what a mystery affords us the capacity to do. In fact, the love of God is seen most beautifully in the celebration of the Eucharist. Not only is this the moment where the whole Christian community comes together in love to worship God, but God’s ever-abiding presence is renewed within our midst in a real and physical presence in the Eucharist. God so loves his people that through the Eucharist, he remains ever with us, and available to us, we need only receive him, or spend time in adoration in the presence of the Eucharist, to truly be with him.
Mysteries take those tangible words and works of the Christian community—in union with their shepherds, the priests—and invite us to enflame our perceptions beyond the prima facie so we can receive the full sense of what the supernatural is communicating to us through the natural. It is through the words and works of a sinner—a priest—who during the Mass serves as another Christ, that the saving mysteries of the death and resurrection of Jesus are made present to us. What an act of humility that Jesus calls sinners to be his priests. Just like at the washing of the feet, Jesus abases himself and chooses the unworthy to make manifest his greatest works for the sake of the People of God. This mystery reveals the great depth of God’s love for us that he calls all to communion with him, and does so not through the impeccable, but through sinners, so that sinners, too, may discover the hope that even they can be great in the kingdom of God.
It is thus that in our finding participation in these mysteries—most especially the Mysterium Fidei, the Eucharist—that we discover the communication of God’s greatest act of love for us: the mystery of our salvation through participation in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. It is this mystery that is communicated to us in the noble simplicity of the words and works of the priest, united with the whole People of God, in the Mass.
Do we seek fulfillment for our thirst for meaning, purpose, and something that elevates us from the banalities of human existence? It is in the Eucharist, above all else, that we have the greatest mystery in which to participate.
Reflection 6 – Jesus is the Lamb
It is no accident that Jesus died at the time of the Passover. The original Passover that precluded the Exodus in the Old Testament contains many parallels to the death of Jesus in the New Testament.
At the time of the Exodus (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14), the Hebrews were held in bondage in Egypt. What had begun as a saving act, when Joseph welcomed his starving brothers to Egypt 200 years before, turned sour as the “guests” became more numerous and powerful. This resulted in slavery for the Hebrews.
God told Moses that he was to set his people free, but the Pharaoh didn’t want to let the people go. Nine plagues were visited on the Egyptians, yet the answer was still no. Then God said he would send the final plague. He would strike down the firstborn of man and beast. However, God gave his Chosen People a way to be protected. They sacrificed an unblemished lamb, ate it, and smeared its blood on their doorposts. That night, when the Angel of Death came, he passed over the homes of those marked with the blood of the lamb. When the Pharaoh lost his firstborn son, he agreed to let the people go.
John the Baptizer first referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In Revelation we read of the honor given to the Lamb who was slain. Jesus is the perfect unblemished, sinless sacrifice. His blood was shed once for all upon the wood of the cross. (In John’s Gospel, Jesus died at the very hour the Passover lambs were being sacrificed). We receive the Lamb of God, who not only opened the gates of heaven for us, but who set us free from the power of death. (Source: May Lynne Rapien. Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April 1, 2010).
Reflection 7 – The Last Supper
Once again, our faith has brought us here to mark what Jesus did on that first Holy Thursday. We solemnly remember that night in the upper room when Christ instituted the Eucharist and the sacramental priesthood, and commanded us to love one another in humble acts of service. Tonight, I would like to reflect with you on each of these aspects of our faith which have their origin in the Last Supper. And I start with the Blessed Sacrament.
Saint Mark, the evangelist to whom we have been listening on Sundays since we began this liturgical year, describes an incident in the public ministry of Jesus in which the disciples are picking the heads of grain in a field on the Sabbath (Mk 2:23-28). The Pharisees object to this action on the grounds that it constitutes a profanation of the Lord’s Day (Mk 2:24). It is necessary however for Jesus to correct the Pharisees, declaring to them: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27-28).
The truth be told, Jesus is not just Lord of the Sabbath—for that would only be one day of the week. No, He is Lord of all time. And that which gives Him such universal rule is the Holy Eucharist.
In tonight’s second reading, Saint Paul offers us an account of what occurred at the Last Supper. The apostle shows us that the Eucharist figures in all three tenses of time: the past, the present and the future. In the past did Jesus take bread into his own hands, blessed it and broke it (1 Cor. 11:24). Likewise did he take the cup filled with wine, blessed it and shared it with the apostles (1 Cor. 11:25). And with the words he spoke over the bread and wine, the Lord gave us his Body and his Blood. So much for the past. Yet our faith tells us and we believe that the Presence of the Lord is not just a thing of the past. He is with us now, in the present. It’s what we call a real, true and substantial Presence (CCC, 1374). And it’s the reason why we have tabernacles. We don’t ever want to be without the Lord’s Presence in the present moment! As for the future, Saint Paul indicates that every time the Eucharist is offered we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26). As the Creed assures us, the Lord is coming back to judge the living and the dead. The Eucharist is that act on earth which helps us to anticipate an arrival at our heavenly home.
For decades now, we have lived under the yoke of a powerful combination of secularism and relativism. They are alike in that both deny that an event in time can affect past, present and future simultaneously. Secularism leaves us without a way to value things eternally (there is only this world and this time), and relativism robs us of a norm to gauge the truth and falsity of things (the truth is only what I say it is in any given moment).
And that presents us with a terrific challenge, doesn’t it? The Christ event—that is, the Incarnate Lord’s dying and rising—is renewed over and over by the Eucharist. What is eternal and what is true then are not banished from our consciousness because word and sacrament continue to be celebrated.
But just barely. Our churches are emptying out much faster than we can baptize new Catholics. Moreover, those who have been baptized in the last fifty years—the majority of them anyway—have not heard the Gospel proclaimed because they have stopped coming to Mass, usually by the time they are adolescents or young adults.
The new evangelization bids each one of us—whether we are grandparents, parents or simply concerned Catholics who cherish the eternal and the true—to witness to the Holy Eucharist in word and in deed. The time for going through the motions is over. We must show ourselves convinced in every respect that the act offered in time—the Eucharist—brings an eternal good, namely, our salvation. It was once thought that the highest good is our eternal salvation—you have to wonder though do people really believe that anymore? We do and we should show that we do! We must show ourselves convinced in every respect that truth is real and not illusory. There are in our midst today a great many equivalents of Pilate who ask cynically, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38). To celebrate the Eucharist is to be deeply immersed in the truth. And it is only by living truthfully that we can be free (Jn 8:32). So, to all who tell us that they want to live freely, let us introduce them to the Eucharist or help to bring them back to it. The new evangelization rises or falls on a commitment to the Holy Eucharist!
Holy Thursday this year happens to be the 10th anniversary of the death of Pope Saint John Paul II. A Successor of Saint Peter for more than 26 years, he was a priest for nearly 60 years. It was the pontiff’s custom to write a letter to priests for Holy Thursday, and tonight I cite a small part of his last Holy Thursday Letter (2005). It is in the form of a question: “How can we [priests] be convincing heralds?”
As we reflect on the ministerial priesthood tonight, this question is most appropriate. The priest’s chief duty after all is to proclaim the Gospel (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4) and offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest fulfillment of that duty. The Gospel is proclaimed well when it convicts those who hear it and that, we know, is primarily a matter of God’s grace. But there is always a human element at work too.
To be a convincing herald, the priest himself needs to be convinced. Put another way, you can only give to the degree you possess something. The priest cannot make anyone believe. Faith is a free and voluntary act. But the priest, often more than others, is a catalyst for faith. By his overall attitude, the priest gives indication or not that he has personally appropriated what he teaches others. If others see no personal appropriation of the faith in the priest, they are less inclined to make what the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) called “the existential leap of faith.” Personal example does indeed count.
Seldom are priests in line for commendation these days. They are much more likely now to be criticized for anything from their personality to their personal acceptance of and full-throated witness to the hard truths of faith. When a compliment does come a priest’s way, there is none more satisfying than this one: “Father, when you celebrate Mass, you act like you believe it’s all true.” A good priest will be fortunate to be told something like that a few times in the course of his ministry. For if and when an observation like that is shared with a priest, it is going to arise from a judgment that his heralding is convincing. And that, I say, is predicated on the fact that the priest himself is convinced of the heralding before ever setting out to convince others of the same.
In tonight’s gospel, Jesus instructs the apostles on the importance of service with these words: “[A]s I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:15). These words are spoken at the end of the passage, after Jesus had washed the feet of the apostles. But what if Jesus only spoke these words and never washed the feet of the apostles? We would think that his words and actions lacked correspondence or congruence, and thus we could claim a basis for disregarding the model he gave to the Church.
While Jesus never had a problem convincing anyone, the Church he founded surely does. We fail at harmonizing our words and actions because we are sinners. Thus, do we need to be washed clean or else we will not have an inheritance with the Lord (cf. Jn 13:8). Having an inheritance with the Lord, we now find ourselves in the company of countless saintly men and women who bid us by their example to serve humbly too.
Our good works build up the Body of Christ and they inspire the doubtful and the unconvinced. This too is a kind of heralding, a heralding through direct service. Some announce the Gospel with their voices, others with their hands. Some will not be convinced until, like the apostle Thomas, they can put their fingers in the wounds on Christ’s body (Jn 20:24-29). They are unmoved by words but when they are shown faith in action, they too acclaim, “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).
We enter upon these holy days with the faith described for us in the Letter to the Hebrews: confident assurance about the things we hope for, and conviction about the things we do not see (cf. Heb 11:1), Strengthen our conviction, O Lord, that when we do see, we will rejoice at seeing the loveliness of your face.
Praised be Jesus Christ! (Source: Msgr. Robert Batule, Corpus Christi Parish, Mineola, New York)
Reflection 8 – Jesus’ supreme humility
Does your love waver when you encounter bitter disappointments and injury from others? As Jesus’ hour of humiliation draws near he reveals to his disciples the supreme humility which shaped the love he had for them. He stoops to perform a menial task reserved for servants – the washing of smelly, dirty feet. In stooping to serve his disciples Jesus knew he would be betrayed by one of them and that the rest would abandon him through fear and disloyalty. Such knowledge could have easily led to bitterness or hatred. Jesus met the injury of betrayal and disloyalty with the greatest humility and supreme love.
Let the love of Christ rule in your heart and actions
Jesus loved his disciples to the very end, even when they failed him and forsook him. The Lord loves each of us freely and unconditionally. His love has power to set us free to love and serve others with Christ-like compassion and humility. Paul the Apostle tells us that Christ’s gift of love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (Romans 5:5 and 8:35-39). Does the love of Christ rule in your heart, thoughts, intentions and actions?
The love of Christ conquers all and never fails
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) in his sermon for Holy Thursday wrote:
“He had the power of laying down his life; we by contrast cannot choose the length of our lives, and we die even if it is against our will. He, by dying, destroyed death in himself; we are freed from death only in his death. His body did not see corruption; our body will see corruption and only then be clothed through him in incorruption at the end of the world. He needed no help from us in saving us; without him we can do nothing. He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot have life.Finally, even if brothers die for brothers, yet no martyr by shedding his blood brings forgiveness for the sins of his brothers, as Christ brought forgiveness to us. In this he gave us, not an example to imitate but a reason for rejoicing. Inasmuch, then, as they shed their blood for their brothers, the martyrs provided “the same kind of meal” as they had received at the Lord’s table. Let us then love one another as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us.”
“Lord Jesus, your love conquers all and never fails. Help me to love others freely, with heart-felt compassion, kindness and goodness. Where there is injury, may I sow peace rather than strife.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2017/apr13.htm
Reflection 9 – Washing away our reluctance to serve
Jesus did not come into this world to be served, although he is God and surely deserves it. He came to serve. He came to serve you. And through you, he wants to serve everyone you know.
After inviting us to sit back and enjoy being served by our wonderful God, Jesus says in the Gospel passage for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper: “I have given you a model to follow — what I have done for you, you should also do.” His foot-washing ceremony is a model of service.
His model is very uncomfortable. It means loving others so much that we do good deeds for them, even for the people we dislike, those whose “feet” (behaviors, actions, the way they walk through life) are disgusting.
When we serve those who have not served us the way they should, we unite ourselves to Jesus by becoming Eucharist for them. What does it mean to “become Eucharist”?
First, we approach Christ in the Eucharist, and knowing that we are responsible for our own conversions, we tell him: “I am not worthy….” Then, after we receive him in the Eucharist, we return to our pews united to him. Communion means “with union.”
United to Christ, we are now as much the Eucharist as he is. At the end of Mass, we’re commissioned to go out and be Eucharist — be the real presence of Christ — in the world.
Years ago, God drove this point home to me. In a prayer meeting, I surprisingly found myself washing the feet of a priest who had betrayed his parishioners (and me and my family and some friends) through alcoholism and lust. I tell you, his feet were ugly! But much uglier was his refusal to accept the truth about his addictions and sins.
What did the foot-washing accomplish? It made a clear statement about mercy. And on a personal level, it gave me the opportunity to show him that I was willing to serve him if he was willing to accept it as part of a healing process. He wasn’t, and eventually the bishop removed him from parish ministry, but the foot-washing ceremony healed me of my own unwillingness to love unconditionally. Jesus washed my feet along with my heart. And I gained a much greater understanding of the love that Jesus has for me every time he washes my ugly feet (my sins).
Remember, though, that Jesus never gives up on anyone. Years later, he washed the feet of this priest with the gift of mercy through a redemptive time of earthly purgatory, which took the form of a painful disease that began in his feet and spread. As he endured pain that medications couldn’t totally eliminate, he humbly allowed the disease to purge him of his pride and his addictions. In this, he experienced Jesus embracing him with passionate love before he died. – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-04-13
For another reflection on the Last Supper, which is printable for distribution, go to Catholic Digital Resources at catholicdr.com/calendar/Lent/HolyThursday.htm. Thank you for sharing the Good News!
Reflection 10 – Lasting memories
“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15).
One morning, Alfred Nobel awoke to read his own obituary. Obviously a mistake, he was quite disturbed. Disturbed, for he was described simply as the dynamite king. Nothing about his intentions for good. He decided to change that, and he used his fortune for peace, establishing the Nobel Peace Prize.
How do you wish to be remembered? The last act our Lord performed before his passion was to wash the feet of his disciples. He wished to be remembered as a servant. Can I do better than that? As his followers, we are to wash each other’s feet. We are to serve others. Can you think of a way to be a servant to the Lord? Do something for someone else. It is a great way to be remembered.
“All powerful Father, help me to be like your son. I may not have the gift of healing, prophecy or even knowing the Bible that well, but I can serve others. Help me with the spirit of Jesus to serve others. Amen.”
Reflection 11 – St. Martin I (d. 655 A.D.)
When Martin I became pope in 649, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine empire and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influential Church leader in the eastern Christian world. The struggles that existed within the Church at that time were magnified by the close cooperation of emperor and patriarch.
A teaching, strongly supported in the East, held that Christ had no human will. Twice emperors had officially favored this position, Heraclius by publishing a formula of faith and Constans II by silencing the issue of one or two wills in Christ.
Shortly after assuming the office of the papacy (which he did without first being confirmed by the emperor), Martin held a council at the Lateran in which the imperial documents were censured, and in which the patriarch of Constantinople and two of his predecessors were condemned. Constans II, in response, tried first to turn bishops and people against the pope.
Failing in this and in an attempt to kill the pope, the emperor sent troops to Rome to seize Martin and to bring him back to Constantinople. Already in poor health, Martin offered no resistance, returned with the exarch Calliopas and was then submitted to various imprisonments, tortures and hardships. Although condemned to death and with some of the torture imposed already carried out, Martin was saved from execution by the pleas of a repentant Paul, patriarch of Constantinople, who was himself gravely ill.
Martin died shortly thereafter, tortures and cruel treatment having taken their toll. He is the last of the early popes to be venerated as a martyr.
The real significance of the word martyr comes not from the dying but from the witnessing, which the word means in its derivation. People who are willing to give up everything, their most precious possessions, their very lives, put a supreme value on the cause or belief for which they sacrifice. Martyrdom, dying for the faith, is an incidental extreme to which some have had to go to manifest their belief in Christ. A living faith, a life that exemplifies Christ’s teaching throughout, and that in spite of difficulties, is required of all Christians. Martin might have cut corners as a way of easing his lot, to make some accommodations with the civil rulers.
The breviary of the Orthodox Church pays tribute to Martin: “Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith…sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error…true reprover of heresy…foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion…. Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1352
SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2014)|
|PAPACY BEGAN||21 July 649|
|PAPACY ENDED||16 September 655|
Near Todi, Umbria, Byzantine Empire
|DIED||16 September 655
Cherson, Byzantine Empire
|Other popes named Martin|
|PAPAL STYLES OF
POPE MARTIN I
|REFERENCE STYLE||His Holiness|
|SPOKEN STYLE||Your Holiness|
|RELIGIOUS STYLE||Holy Father|
Pope Martin I (Latin: Martinus I; born between 590 and 600, died 16 September 655) reigned from 21 July 649 to his death in 655. He was born near Todi, Umbria, in the place now named after him (Pian di San Martino). He succeededPope Theodore I on 5 July 649. He was the only pope during the Byzantine Papacy whose election was not approved by a iussio from Constantinople. Martin I was abducted by Emperor Constans II and died at Cherson. He is considered a saint and martyr by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
One of his first official acts was to summon the Lateran Council of 649 to deal with the Monothelites, whom the Church considered heretical. The Council met in the church of St. John Lateran. It was attended by 105 bishops (chiefly fromItaly, Sicily, and Sardinia, with a few from Africa and other quarters), held five sessions or secretariifrom 5 October to 31 October 649, and in twenty canons condemned Monothelitism, its authors, and the writings by which Monothelitism had been promulgated. In this condemnation were included not only the Ecthesis (the exposition of faith of the Patriarch Sergius for which the emperor Heraclius had stood sponsor), but also the typus of Paul, the successor of Sergius, which had the support of the reigning Emperor (Constans II).
Abduction and exile (653–655)
Martin was very energetic in publishing the decrees of the Lateran Council of 649 in an encyclical, and Constans replied by enjoining his exarch (governor) in Italy to arrest the pope should he persist in this line of conduct and send Martin as a prisoner from Rome to Constantinople. He was also accused by Constans of unauthorised contact and collaboration with the Muslims of the Rashidun Caliphate – allegations which he was unable to convince the infuriated imperial authorities to drop.
The arrest orders were found impossible to carry out for a considerable period of time, but at last Martin was arrested in the Lateran on 17 June 653 along withMaximus the Confessor. He was hurried out of Rome and conveyed first to Naxos, Greece, and subsequently to Constantinople, where he arrived on 17 September 653. After suffering an exhausting imprisonment and many alleged public indignities, he was ultimately banished to Chersonesus (present day Crimea region),where he arrived on 15 May 655 and died on 16 September of that year.
Place in the calendar of saints
Pope Pius VII made an honourable reference to him in the encyclical Diu Satis (1800), ‘3. Indeed, the famous Martin who long ago won great praise for this See, commends faithfulness and fortitude to Us by his strengthening and defense of the truth and by the endurance of labors and pains. He was driven from his See and from the City, stripped of his rule, his rank, and his entire fortune. As soon as he arrived in any peaceful place, he was forced to move. Despite his advanced age and an illness which prevented his walking, he was banished to a remote land and repeatedly threatened with an even more painful exile. Without the assistance offered by the pious generosity of individuals, he would not have had food for himself and his few attendants. Although he was tempted daily in his weakened and lonely state, he never surrendered his integrity. No deceit could trick, no fear perturb, no promises conquer, no difficulties or dangers break him. His enemies could extract from him no sign which would not prove to all that Peter “until this time and forever lives in his successors and exercises judgment as is particularly clear in every age” as an excellent writer at the Council of Ephesus says. ‘
- Mershman, Francis (1910). “Pope St. Martin I” in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Emmanouela Grypeou; Mark (Mark N.) Swanson; David Richard Thomas (2006). The Encounter of Eastern Christianity With Early Islam. BRILL. p. 79. ISBN 9789004149380.
- Walter E. Kaegi (4 Nov 2010). Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 89.ISBN 9780521196772.
- A. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy, (Oxford University Press, 2010), 74.
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 90
- Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001