Three Mysteries to Ponder on Holy Thursday
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
This Holy Thursday the Last Supper of the Lord, that we’re in, begins the Easter Triduum, the Paschal Mystery, the great summit of our Faith, the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Our Lord. And this evening particularly there are three mysteries that we want to ponder. That is, the mystery of the Priesthood, and the mystery of the Eucharist, and the mystery of the Love of Our Lord. And today in a way is a special day for all Priests. Because this is the day of the birth of our ministerial Priesthood. And how much we are grateful to God, to the Lord, for giving us Priests. Particularly to be able to be forgiven from our sins, whatever they may be and however serious they may be. When Our Lord said, that Holy Thursday night, ‘Do this in memory of me’, that’s when he instituted the Priesthood. For all of my brother Priests here and throughout the world, it’s in a sense, the birthday of our vocation, the birthday of the Priesthood. And we want to remember not only the Priests that we know but the Priests that have gone before us, the Priests that baptized us, the Priests that married some of you, the Priests that were our spiritual directors, the Priests who guided us to come to the point where we are at today with our faith. And in a sense for the Priests too, for myself of course included, is a day to be reminded how much we need to renew our dedication, our Love for the Lord, and our love for His People and His Church. To be renewed in that commitment. Sometimes we grow lax, we get tired, we get beat here and there — through words, not so much physical beating. But this is the time we want to renew our dedication to Our Lord, Who is the Eternal High Priest.
And the mystery of the Eucharist, how through the Priest, the Lord willed to come down upon us, to be on this altar, this evening. To do that and to feed us with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Somebody asked me a question before I was hearing confession. “Father, what happens if the Eucharist falls down to the floor? Is that still the Blessed Sacrament, or no?” It is still Our Lord, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When the Eucharist accidentally falls on the floor it does not mean that Our Lord fell and was hurt from the floor. No, because He has Risen, and His Presence in the Eucharist is His Glorified Risen Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. So after the Consecration the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord remains. No matter how big, no matter how small, no matter how many little particles. It is the Lord, the entire Lord Himself. There may be a time when a Priest, for good pastoral reason, may have to break the Eucharist, to accommodate more people to receive. Just because you receive half of It, or just because you receive a quarter of It, just because you receive a little tiny particle, the tiniest particle, It is the entire Risen Lord Jesus. And yes, the effect of the reception of the Eucharist in the form of bread and the reception of the Eucharist in the form of wine, the effect of it still exists. To one who has celiac disease would know the effect of receiving the Body of Christ under the from of bread the same for those who are very sensitive to alcohol. Yes, the effect of alcohol is there, even though after the Consecration It has become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. I know some of you heard this story before. When I was in the Seminary, I had the duty of being an acolyte. For some reason that morning one of the Deacons filled up the chalice that the acolyte had to communicate to the people almost to the rim. And I remember that at the end of Holy Communion, whoever is doing the acolyte duty is responsible for consuming the remainder of the Precious Blood. Well my chalice there was more than half. And so I had to consume It all and afterward I felt a little dizzy. I like to say, I guess I had a little a “holy buzz” from the Lord. Again the effect of bread, the effect of alcohol is still there but there is no longer bread and wine but truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord. And at the end of the Mass after the concluding prayer, we will have the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the parlor. And all of you are invited to follow behind Fr. Dominic, who will be carrying Our Lord in the ciborium. It’s like going with the Lord, going like His disciples on that Holy Thursday night. How He went through His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and I like to think of it we’re following Our Lord to the parlor is like a new Garden of Gethsemane. To be with Our Lord, to be His disciples, we may be tired; we may be sleepy just like His disciples who slept through the Holy Thursday evening. But we try our best to be attentive to Our Lord’s Presence.
And finally the mystery of love, the Love of Our Lord. This is not easy to live. If you truly take this to heart its not always easy to live this last part. To love like Our Lord, to love to the point of forgetting our self, to love to the point of being hurt, to the point of sacrifice our self, our comfort. You know the washing of Our Lord’s disciple’s feet was a perfect image of what this Christ-like love is all about. In ancient Palestine foot washing was a job reserved for slaves. It was one of those most unpleasant and humiliating tasks. People wore sandals and went barefoot. They walked on roads shared by herdsmen driving their animals to market and traders moving goods by ox and camel etc. And the dirt of these unpaved byways was blended sometimes with dung. Even just a short walk caked one sandal exposed feet with a filthy, smelly mix. That is what Jesus washed off His Apostle’s feet. By freely, gladly, willingly washing His Apostle’s feet, Jesus, God-made-Man, the King of kings and Lord of the Universe, the Lord Himself took the status of a slave. That way showed what He means by the word love. Love is not about feelings. It is not noble desires. Love is self-giving. Giving to the point of sacrificing ourselves. Like Mother Teresa used to say, “We have to love, we have to love until it hurts.” Have we loved until it hurt? If that is what love means for Christ then it is also what love means for the Christian, for each of us. Giving of our self. Love is active and costly. That is what the washing of the feet teaches us. And because Our Lord knows that all of us are slow learners, He is going to repeat the lesson even more graphically by His Passion, which we are going to witness in these next two days. There was a study recently. The study was about why people desire euthanasia, about why people desire physician-assisted suicide. The researchers did in depth interviews with people suffering that were suffering from HIV and from AIDS. And they came up with this answer, they said, “Participants (these are the people who are interviewed who desire euthanasia) desired euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide because of disintegration and loss of community which combined to create a perception of loss of self.” In other words, the sick and helpless said in various ways, ‘I am no longer who I was’ this led them to conclude ‘I should be allowed to die with my dignity intact’. Why would these people feel they were no longer themselves? That is where “loss of community” comes in. They found that the people who used to care about them didn’t care about them anymore now that they were sick and dying. They saw that their feet were filthy but no one came by to wash them so they conclude that they are not worth washing and they lose hope. At that point death start to look like a solution, a way to stop spiraling further into worthlessness — that’s the culture of death. The antidote is to have this Christ-like love. The third point of this homily, the mystery of the love of Our Lord that we are demanded to imitate. Like I said, it’s not easy. Especially when we don’t feel like being charitable, when we don’t feel like loving. It’s not easy but remember the Lord gave Himself up for you and me in order to provide us with His grace to make this possible. So today when we receive Holy Communion, Our Lord will renew His commitment to us, He will wash our feet, He will cleanse our hearts and our minds, and fill us with His strength. How will we respond? How would He like us to respond? He has told us, “If I therefore the Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”