Thursday, April 5, 2007

As One Who Serves

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Holy Thursday, 5 April 2007
Rosary Monastery, St. Ann’s, Port of Spain

For many of us the ritual foot washing each Holy Thursday helps us identify a powerful and predominant sentiment, let’s call it “gratefulness” or “love”, welling up within us as we see that God’s love for us, made flesh, made seeable and touchable in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, that this love goes beyond affection for us creatures and lets itself be described by the word “service”.
Holy Thursday is an occasion for us to recognize and say thank you for His greatness, as we confess the truth in love and namely that God indeed has and continually does serve our good and save us. Nobody does it better; no one is better for us than God. This is not an impression or a dream. No, God sent His Son Jesus to us to save us by His suffering and death, leaving us an example of heroic virtue to follow through service of our neighbor, and which never stops to count the cost. We are not only served and saved but we are taught the path we are to follow in living out our daily lives.
The hand extended to us by God in Jesus Christ is not a demand to pay up; it is arms open to embrace; it is service; it is gift. It is Jesus’ gift of the Eucharist to His Church; it is Jesus’ gift of the ministerial priesthood given for the sake of the Eucharist: given for the Church and given for you and for me.
Holy Thursday: it’s another way for Jesus to say to you and to me what he says elsewhere in the Gospel: “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you. Come and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Enjoy, rest in, take your rest in the great mysteries we celebrate this evening through sign and symbol, and be refreshed for life’s journey!
Does Holy Thursday really provide answers? Do the great mysteries we celebrate this evening really deliver? Does the foot washing, does this liturgy, does this day, this night on which Jesus was betrayed, say something to the world? Were Eucharist and Priesthood given to us by God in Jesus to respond to some sort of felt need? Which one would it be? What is it that God, that we His Church, that we the Mystical Body of Christ have to offer to the world? What makes us special? What is it that we have to say to others? The community of the Church, the baptized one and all, as well as all those who seek God with a pure heart should see with our help the rightness, the worth, the inestimable worth of the Sacrifice of the Altar, which recalls and renews for us the Sacrifice of the Cross, offered once and for all for the forgiveness of sins, once and for all to reconcile us with God.
There’s nothing marginal or minority about these mysteries. They are not ethnic or peripheral, not bound to a given culture or race. They are at the center of all human life. They are right and absolutely so for everyone and for all times. The matter really lies there does it not? Is the Bread of Life truly light and life for the world? If that were not the case then when we talk about the practice of the faith of our Baptism are we not talking about an acquired taste for something that may just be a luxury or an option like leather upholstery in a new car? Is the Catholic faith, is the Eucharist, and is Priesthood something essential to life, something we cannot do without “yes” or “no”?
On the night He was betrayed, He (Jesus), He who? (He, the Only Begotten Son of God), took bread, took the cup, said the blessing and then said, “Do this in memory of me.” The Mystery of Faith: We speak to God in Christ and we proclaim: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life… Lord, by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free, you are the savior of the world”.
The civil holidays for Easter here in T&T run from this evening through Easter Monday. That you are here this evening probably means that you have not opted for a beach holiday package in Venezuela. With no cards to write and no gift shopping to do, I would ask you to spend as much time as you can with the Lord of your life these days. Go beyond being touched by the ritual of the foot washing. Stir up the flame of faith within you, which goes beyond sentiment.
Sad to say, our world is Godless or idolatrous in lots of different ways. Some people deny God exists; others claim they don’t know Him and have no way to get to know Him; others, with ears itching (as the Scriptures say), go off in search of preachers to fit their fancy. The One True God is much more elemental, much more basic. His priorities are not wealth, beauty, material means, vacation homes, jewelry or power. He washes feet, shows His love, and bestows life everlasting, joy in His presence. Move from sentiment to action, move from meditation and prayer in these holy days to conquest of a world in search of hope. Never apologize for being a good person; never regret seeking holiness, oneness with your Creator and Savior.
On Mount Horeb, God presented Himself flashy to Moses and the Chosen People such that Moses’ face remained radiant with an afterglow, which he hid with a veil from the people. In the New Testament our faces are unveiled to reveal the radiant glory of the face of God’s Only Son, not flashy but beautiful just the same, one like us in all things but sin. The Blessed Mother and Mother Church present themselves in just the same way, not flashy but proclaiming good news. Self-gift after the manner of Jesus Christ, service in His Name, where charity and love prevail, there are we and there our world can and should be, with God now and for ever more.
“When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’”

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