13 April 2017Holy Thursday

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Holy Thursday
Holy Thursday - A Cycle - John 13:1-15

Back in the Neanderthal days of television, there was a program titled "You Were There." The object was to place viewers in the midst of a historical incident. Thus they could imagine they were witnessing the celebrated event. Let's attempt something of the sort with the Last Supper. There you were - the thirteenth apostle. It was a wet spring that year of 33. It was Thursday. The Passover celebration was on everybody's mind. You were as anxious as anybody else to commemorate the mighty Moses. Attendance at the dinner with Jesus as your host was by invitation only. You were anxious to look your best. You had bought a new designer toga. You resolved to be as quiet as a church mouse. You asked His mother Mary whether you should bring a gift.

She answered with a smile, "All He wants is yourself." The dinner was held at 6 PM in a borrowed banquet hall. You were warned that Jesus was a stickler for promptness. Later on, historians would call the hall the Upper Room. You would reflect that your Leader had been forced to borrow so many things - the vermin filled cave in Bethlehem, the donkey several days before, this shabby catering hall, and finally even His tomb. Life was not fair even to the Son of God. You enjoyed the fact Mary had taken the pains to place vases of anemones all about. She had picked them in the fields about Jerusalem. They gave elegance to the drab room. You recalled how Jesus loved fresh flowers. You were moved by the girl softly playing her harp as mood music in the corner. The apostle on your left said she was the child Jesus had raised from the dead. You looked around the table that night at your noisy friends.

The apostles were anticipating a sumptuous supper. Nor did you fault them. They had been eating bad food on the road and had been running from cops for months. They appeared exhausted and painfully thin. You wondered if they could stomach rich food. The Nazarene looked introspective. His guests were having no luck in drawing Him out. You assumed He was tired after His teaching in the Temple these past several days. He had to rest His voice. He did sound hoarse. You suspected He had much lecturing to do in the days ahead. The meal opened. The Master gave to each of you some unleavened bread dipped in a hot red sauce called haroseth. It was delicious. You asked for seconds despite your fear of calories. He complied with a good-natured smile.

Then the first of the four cups of wine was served. Since Palestinian wine was strong, it was cut with water. You had no desire to make a fool of yourself and become giddy. You drank sparingly. Then sips of salt water were drunk in memory of the bitter tears shed by your ancestors in Egypt. Peter shouted, "I prefer the wine." Jesus shot him a sharp look. He was not amused by the humor of His CEO. Peter got his wish. There was a second cup of wine. Shortly thereafter the main course of roast lamb, drowned with aromatic herbs, was placed on the table. It was medium well done - just the way you liked it. More wine was served. It had been a delightful meal. The Talmud had been accurate when it labeled the Passover meal as delectable as the olive. Finally, in a soft voice, you heard Jesus call for attention. Unnecessarily, the flushed Peter rapped his tankard with a large set of keys.

The Teacher was holding pieces of bread He had broken in a clay dish. He said to all, "Take you and eat. This is my body." Then He placed small fragments in each of your hands. Then over the wine, He whispered, "This is my blood." The cup of the Precious Blood was passed from one to the other. You were puzzled, and hurt too, when the Christ said to all, "Do this in memory of me." It was as though He was pleading to be remembered by His guests. How could anyone forget Him? Wasn't He what everyone there wanted to be in his life? As you were to realize later, this had been the night of your First Communion. You wish you could have gotten a certificate signed by Him. You were not completely surprised by the Eucharist that night. You recalled the promise of the Eucharist the Nazarene had made a year previously. It had occurred after He fed five thousand people with a few loaves and fish. The meal was done. You followed Jesus out of the room. He did not appear too happy. You wondered what was on His mind. You noticed that He had eaten little. You thought He knew something about tomorrow you did not. Once again you are back in the present. In today's Liturgy, you will receive the Eucharist. Take care. This is not a TV dinner. Rather, this is six star gourmet dining at its best. It is a heavenly meal. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Holy Thursday

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Eternal Father, We Offer You.... Over the last three years, our Catholic Church has been revitalized by Pope Francis. He has emphasized that the Church must bring the positive message of the Gospel to all people, including, and especially, those who feel marginalized, on the fringe of the Church, due to their sexual orientation, their marriage situation, their race, and particularly their poverty. He has called the Church to be one with the poor. He has called the Church to reach out to all. Many people feel excluded from the Church due to their sins. Jesus Christ came for everyone. He reached out to saint and sinner. He was not concerned about any action of the past. He was concerned about the present and the future. He looked at the Woman at the Well with compassion. His mercy drew her away from her sins. His heart broke when he saw what sin had done to that woman caught in adultery. He told the parable of the Prodigal Son as a way for us to understand how Loving a Father our God is. Jesus Christ healed others. We are called to continue the healing compassion of Jesus Christ by reaching out to all who are hurting. This includes so many who are devastated by a decision to end a life. The Gospel reading presents the Lord washing the feet of his disciples. In a few moments we will enact this symbolically by washing the feet of twelve parishioners.

Perhaps, you might think that this is something added on to the service, but not at the heart of the service. You might even question why so much emphasis is given to this rite. Shouldn’t the focus be on the Eucharist? Well, to be a Eucharistic People means to wash the feet of others. The disciples were not admitted into the Eucharist until they received a mandate from the Lord. The mandate came after Jesus washed their feet. He said to them: what you have seen me do, you also must do. We are also given this mandate. If we are going to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, we must wash the feet of others.

Pope Francis challenges us to be a Eucharistic People. No one should ever feel excluded from the love of the Community that has Jesus Christ as its head. As a parish, we are committed to foot washing through many of our ministries, our Food Pantry, our Pregnancy Center, and our Caritas ministries immediately come to mind. Our Life Teen and Edge youth ministries, our religious education programs, the Women’s Council and the Knights of Columbus have also recognized their obligation to care for others. These are some of the many ways we wash feet as a parish. But how about us as individuals? How do each of us wash feet? How are each of us Eucharistic? Pope Francis challenges us to realize that acts of charity are not mere add-ons to our faith. They are the fundamental way that we practice our faith. Recently I have been doing a little study on Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

This was written in the 1830's by a Frenchman who sought to understand American society. In one section of his book, Tocqueville wrote about politics and religion. He noted that whereas politics is about advancing various points of view, religion is about mores or ways of living life. He is adamant that religion has its greatest impact when it presents proper ways of living and then asks its people to apply this to their political decisions. He notes that religion is at its weakest when it endorses a particular candidate or becomes the mouthpiece of a particular party. When this happens, religion becomes nothing more than an arm of a politics, and is ignored by those who disagree with its politics. Then Tocqueville makes this statement: politics is about interests, religion is about love. Religion is about love. That hit me right between the eyes. Why did Jesus Christ come?

He came to bring the love of God to His people. What does Jesus Christ want from us? He wants us to love others. The washing of feet is not an interesting rite, it is a symbolic expression of the fundamental reason why the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us. He came to wash our feet. He then called us to wash the feet of others. This is the mandate, the mandatum that we remember so solemnly today. At the Last Supper and at all our Masses, Jesus Christ says, "This is my Body which is given up for you," and, "This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." Perhaps we focus so much on the bread becoming His Body and the wine becoming His Blood that we miss why He gives us these gifts. He gives us His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, our sins and the sins of all mankind.

What took place at the Last Supper and what takes place every time we celebrate Mass is the offering of Jesus Christ on the cross. He sacrificed himself to His Father to defeat hatred with love, to defeat sin with love. His is the Paschal sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We are all tempted to see the consecration as the central moment of the Mass, but actually, the whole reason why the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of the Lord is the offering of these eternal gifts to the Father for our sins and those of the world. Listen closely to the words that follow the consecration.

No matter which Eucharistic Prayer we use, after the consecration we pray in words similar to the First Eucharistic prayer: we offer you, Holy Father, from the gifts you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the Holy Bread of eternal life and the chalice of everlasting salvation. Be pleased to look upon these offering and accept them. I know many of you say the Divine Mercy chaplet. Every ten petitions for mercy, (For the sake of your sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world,) are followed by this prayer: Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, your only Son, for our sins and the sins of the whole world. This is what we do at Mass.

We offer up Jesus Christ to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. And this is what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. He gave himself up to the Father so that sin would no longer control us. He defeated hatred with love, sin with obedience, death with life. Again, His is the Paschal sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ is about love, His love for God the Father, His love for us, His love for all people. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ uniting Himself to us so we will be able to join Him in love. The life of a Christian is all about Jesus Christ. The life of a Christian is all about loving as He loved. The life of a Christian is all about sacrificial love, sacrificing ourselves for others just as He sacrificed Himself for us. The life of a Christian is the response to the mandate of the Lord to be Eucharistic, to be sacrificial, to wash the feet of others. We pray this evening for the determination and the courage to live Eucharistic lives.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Holy Thursday
Testimony from Bishop-Elect Mueggenborg (April 13, 2017)

Message: Do this in remembrance of me. Bishop-elect Daniel Mueggenborg's vocation was sparked by serving a Mass celebrated by proto-martyr Stanley Rother. I will give this homily in English, but begin with a summary in Spanish: Voy a dar la homilia en ingles, pero comienzo con un resumen en espanol: Jesus nos dice, Hagan esto en conmemoracion mia. Este refiere a la Eucaristia, la misa, y tambien al ofrecerse la vida en servicio. Nuestro obispo-elegido Daniel Mueggenborg da un testimonio de como el ejemplo del Padre Stanley Rother inspiro su vocacion. Stanley Rother es el primer ciudadano de los estados unidos declarado un martir. Contare como el Padre Rother dio su vida en 1981 en Guatemala. La sangre de los martires es semilla de la iglesia. La vocacion de nuestro nuevo obispo Mueggenborg fue motivada por asister a una misa del Padre Rother. Hacer esto en memoria mia. Tonight Jesus tells us, "Do this in remembrance of me." This refers to the Eucharist, the Mass, and also to offering our lives in service.

Our new bishop-elect, Daniel Mueggenborg, gave a powerful testimony about how the Mass can lead to offering one's life. In 1981 he was in his first year of college studying geology. His family asked him to serve an anniversary Mass for his uncle and aunt. Bishop-elect Mueggenborg said he felt reluctant, but finally accepted. It turned out that the priest saying the Mass was Fr. Stanley Rother, also a native of Okarche a small town in central Oklahoma. Bishop-elect Mueggenborg said that even though he felt reluctant, maybe even a little rebellious, something about Fr. Rother captivated him: "There was spirit of profound peace and love that filled the room when he entered." "He possessed the qualities of character that I desired most yet had not found," said Mueggenborg. "As a result of that Mass I began allowing myself to once again consider the possibility of becoming a priest." In May of 1981 Fr. Rother returned to Guatemala where he had been a missionary for 13 years.

Guatemala, along with other countries in Central America was experiencing great turmoil. His catechists and parishioners would disappear and later be found dead, their bodies showing signs of having been beaten and tortured. Rother saw the parish radio station smashed and its director murdered. Fr. Rother himself received death threat because of his defense of native people. On the morning of July 28, two gunmen broke into the rectory. Fr. Rother threw himself at them and fought like a lion. He only had his fists. They had guns and killed him, shooting him twice in the head. The people of Santiago Atitlan wanted Fr. Rother buried in their village. The Diocese of Tulsa reached a compromise.

Before taking his body back to Okarche, they allowed his heart to be removed. His heart remains under the altar where he had served. The native people had a plaque carved with these words: "No hay amor mas grande que este, dar la vida por sus amigos." There is no greater love than this, to give one's life for his friends. In 2015 Pope Francis official recognized Stanley Rother as a martyr. He is the first U.S. citizen to receive that designation.

Thus he is the "proto-martyr" of the United States. Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City has announced that the beatification ceremony for Fr. Rother will take place at the Cox Convention Center on September 23. Back in the second century an African writer named Tertullian said, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." Here in the Archdiocese of Seattle we have a new bishop-elect Daniel Mueggenborg whose vocation was sparked by serving a Mass celebrated by proto-martyr Stanley Rother. As we celebrate Holy Thursday 2017 it's good to hear Jesus' challenge: Do this in memory of me: To participate in the Mass with devotion and to offer oneself in service to others. Do this in memory of me. ************ Note to homilists: You may use this homily even if you are not in the Archdiocese of Seattle but with this humorous caveat: Bishop-Elect Mueggenborg told me that when he was learning Spanish he downloaded one of my homilies. Pressed for time he didn't preview it carefully. It contained a part referring to my experience in the Archdiocese. Monsignor Mueggenborg read it then looked up and said "I guess you realize I didn't write this homily." He smiled and continued on. Perhaps it was prophetic...

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Holy Thursday

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Holy Thursday

These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.