Browsing Homilies

Holy Thursday (Mass of the Lord's Supper)

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14 | Ps 116 | 1 Cor 11:23-26 | Jn 13:1-15

In John’s gospel we eavesdrop in the Upper Room. It is a scene of intimacy. It’s a scene of hope. Jesus gathers the disciples for the last time before his death. Did they have an inkling that this was the last meal with him? Did Jesus fully understand that his actions would penetrate generations, reaching even to ours this night? Many questions loom in our hearts. On Palm Sunday, I invited us to help fuel our prayer in the days ahead to keep asking ourselves that question, “Who is this?” ever before us, as we ache to be part of the action and part of the love Jesus enacts with his disciples.

“Do this in remembrance of me” are words that should fill our hearts with love and eyes with tears as we recall the intimacy Jesus shared among his disciples in that simple room.

In John’s gospel, the sharing of bread and wine isn’t mentioned; rather the focus is on service. The meal of Jesus Christ leads to action. The intimacy shared by Jesus beckons his followers to live such love in genuine human ways. Jesus holds a pitcher of water, bending down at the feet of his followers. He washes the grime from their filthy feet. He serves them as never before. On the night before he dies, he wants to make sure that the act of washing feet is also part of his heritage left for his followers. This act symbolizes his actions of healing, of reaching out to the poor, of welcoming the stranger, and of giving new life to the crippled, the leper, and the blind. Washing feet is a summary of the past and hope for the future. His actions almost stop time for the disciples since they must surrender to such love. They squirm at such intimacy, and know well that they are called to do the same.

On this Holy Thursday, we share in the affection of the Upper Room. We receive the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We also need to surrender to such love. This love calls us into the very mission of the Church on this holy night. We, too, are given a towel, a pitcher of water, and a basin. We are challenged to wash feet ritually not only this night but every day of our earthly lives.

Service becomes holy tonight. Recognizing the needs of people is a sacrament. Washing, serving, bending down, feeding, loving, and listening are all just the beginning of how Jesus is calling us to implement faith, hope, and love in our world.

Our families experience putting love into practice with washing and caring. We wash the newborn child. We care for the physical needs of our dying parent. We wash one another’s bodies and feed our sick. We already understand Jesus’ call and challenge. On this Holy Thursday, Jesus calls us beyond this room and into our world. Foot washing is not just a ritual enactment. It is a way of being a Christian in our broken world.

We learn to wash the feet of immigrants and trafficked persons. We learn to care for prisoners and strangers on the street. We open our hearts to people without income and those faced with mental illness. Our actions feed our spiritual lives. Tonight, we understand better that loving service comes from the intimacy of Jesus. The Eucharist isn’t only a privilege, but a surrender to love. We are called to implement mercy in every human action.

Jesus calls us to become love in our world, the love offered to us this night in the sharing of the Real Presence of the One after whom we ask, “Who is this?”


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