Holy Thursday 2013

Mass of the Lord’s Supper 2013

There is almost an overwhelming emotion in these days. We enter into the very heartland of our faith. Through a stripping away of the normal and familiar we are brought into direct exposure to what we are really all about. Through our prayer and our fasting and our charitable giving we have been peeling away the layers that protect our hearts, the comforts and consolations that dull our deepest sense of what we are made for. Those things that fill our lives; those distractions that move us away from who we really are.  In these incredible days now, we are given a graced opportunity to be exposed; to make our hearts vulnerable to the presence of God: a God not imposing or enslaving but a God washing our feet like a servant. A God not all consuming, but a God who gives us His very self to be consumed. It seems too good to be true. But it is more true than anything else in existence.  What we celebrate and make present here tonight, in sign, symbol and reality is more true, significant and compelling than anything else on the face of the earth. Here in this space and this time, eternity itself breaks into our lives, and penetrates our hearts, our inmost being. Tonight here we encounter the living God, kneeling before us, and breaking himself open for us. So great is our dignity, so incredible our calling.  There can be no mediocrity for the Christian, no half measures, no false humility. We are made for greatness, we are called to live with joy, to enlarge our hearts for each other.

Every act of service, every word of encouragement, every smile and moment of forgiveness, every prayer whispered for one another, prevents our hearts from being hidden again, filled with things that our passing and mediocre.  The Lord is always doing something to us that we do not understand now but that we will later, most importantly the Lord is setting an example of a life that is not consumed by self, not obsessed with self; it is a life that keeps going out of itself.  That’s our calling.

To be a Christian, is to be a pilgrim on a journey, a journey that does not have the consolation of satellite navigation with clear instructions, estimated time of arrival and clarity about the direction we are going. To be a pilgrim is to follow the Lord carrying a cross, uniting our sufferings with His, not wishing it were some other way, some other path. We are following closely and faithfully, with a constant mantra “Thy will be done”. It is a way of poverty, and simplicity, a way that is not sophisticated or impressive at first glance. It is the difficult journey that we would rather not take, a way full of the waifs and the strays, the greatest saints and the worst sinners. But is it the only way; it is the joy filled way; it is the way that anyone can walk whatever their past, whatever their present, and a way that leaves none behind, especially those who stumble, and even those who in their stumbling cause others to fall because it is the way of forgiveness and mercy. On this pilgrim way, our pilgrim Church has a clear destination, it is the destination of the whole of humanity – eternal life. We are not to be obsessed or immersed in these passing times. Our hearts must run the risk of exposure through loving service, so as to be able to long for heaven, to feel the tidal pull of heaven on our hearts.  All of our bitterness, heaviness, sadness, anger, vengefulness and desire to dominate can be transformed.  Our lives can become living flames of passionate joy if we allow the Lord to wash and feed us. If as we witness the washing of feet we pray, ‘Lord wash me, humble me, renew me, reform me, rebuild me.’ These prayers uttered even without sincerity are the beginning of the deep conversion that must take place in the Church, not so that we can become more numerous, but so that we can actually be believed! How can we expect anyone to believe in God made flesh in Jesus Christ if our lives don’t speak of that truth? 

As we approach Holy Communion let us deepen our faith in what we are being fed and nourished with ‘Lord deepen my faith in your real presence. Give me an overwhelming  love of you in the Eucharist.’ These truths must become for us worth dying for. We must die to our embarrassment and discomfort at referring to what we receive as the Sacred Body and the Precious Blood of Christ. We must die to our complacency and lack of respect for Jesus in the Eucharist by how we behave in Church and out of Church.

The pilgrim way is in the eyes of the world the way of poverty and nothingness. That is the risk, that is the calling. To live a life of joyful poverty that couldn’t care less what anyone thinks; our friends, our family even our fellow pilgrims.  Sometimes the greatest barrier to our conversion are our friends, because we are more concerned with what they might think or say than what we are called to.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I speak only as a poor wretched sinner, I speak first to myself and ask your prayers that God will give me the strength to be the priest you need and deserve. Sometimes all of us our overwhelmed by our responsibilities and vocation. The Lord has called me to be a priest and for now to be your priest, your shepherd, your fellow pilgrim along the way. Let us set out again in these days praying that all of us will be renewed, reformed and rebuilt, inspired by the example of our patron St Francis and ne Pope Francis and enfolded in the merciful love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.