Homily Holy Thursday 2017
Each of our readings today gives a different view on the purpose of Holy Thursday. Our first reading describes the Seder meal of the Israelites who were to soon flee Egypt. This was to be their last supper before their passing over to the Promised Land. But their true Passover was the protection that God assured them, as the angel of death would pass by them. The people found protection, guidance and yes even salvation in the Lord. Their first-born sons were spared death. They would also be given a new life as they were freed from the bondage of Egypt to begin a life with God and not pharaoh as their ruler. The Passover meal was not only remembered as a sacrifice but also remembered as food for the journey – the journey of life.
Our second reading reminds us of Jesus’ promise to be with us in and through the Eucharist. Jesus demonstrations to us that he will always be physically present with us, as he takes the bread and wine in his hands changes them into his body and blood. He reminds his disciples, and us, to do the same giving us not only a permanent reminder, but also the connection with Jesus to do the same the place of his place after he physically leaves this world. And like the Israelites, the Last Supper would remind us not only of the sacrifice but also as our food for the journey of life.
John’s gospel does not include the commemoration passage of the bread and wine changed into to the body and blood of Christ Jesus. Rather, it presents us with a very powerful and special aspect of Jesus who is the Messiah and the Emmanuel. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Washing of feet was one of the jobs only the lower level servants would do. It was a lowly and submissive duty. It was demeaning as the servant stooped to clean the dirty and beat up feet of the guests to the house. But for those who were on the receiving end it was uplifting and comforting. After all the cool water must have felt great as the dirt and grime of the roads were away from their sore, tired feet.
To me, this gospel sums up the mission and ministry of Jesus in concise way. He takes the meaning of Holy Thursday beyond a last meal to what Jesus’ life and ultimately what our life is all about – service through kenosis. In these last days of Holy Week – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and of course Easter Sunday, Jesus becomes the living definition of a Greek word – Kenosis. In kenosis one empties oneself by giving and sharing of who he or she is, what he or she can do for the benefit of others.
God wants everyone to share in his love and Jesus is that connection to share in his love on a human level. Jesus is the Messiah – the anointed one, the savior. Jesus is the Emmanuel – God with us. God wants everyone to experience the outpouring of His goodness and to truly come to know and be with Him. God sent us his Son to be with us in the human person Jesus to teach us how to love, to give and to empty ourselves so that others may thrive. Through his kenosis Jesus brings us not only to himself and the Father, but also give us the opportunity and the tools necessary to share in his ministry and bring others closer to God.
Yes, we cannot forget the words that Jesus spoke as we heard in the second reading. But the words together with the transubstantiation serve as food for us to be Christ Jesus – to be that person who came to serve and not be serve, to be that person who gives and gives and then gives some more. To the very end Jesus would give share of himself. Jesus showed that God does not hesitate to stoop to any level to lift us up, to comfort us, to care for us, to bring us into the love of God.
The people at the Last Supper are Jesus’ closed friends. They would soon be the first leaders of his church. He washed their feet to teach them what they are called to do – and not simply to clean each other’s feet but rather to serve by emptying themselves for the good of others. Jesus shows us that all servant hood start with him. We are to be Christ to others because he is Christ to us. We are to be Christ to others because we are filled with his love. Jesus always was a person of self-giving. By his action at the last upper, Jesus teaches us that God has stoop down so low as to allow humanity to share in his divinity.
All are called to serve and today we see the example of not just Jesus but his disciples receiving their call to serve. Though his kenosis Jesus invites others to share in his mission and ministry.
While far from being Jesus, I let him work through me as I washed the feet of those here, who represent all of us today. But in a very special I washed the feet of our pastor and who leads us at our parish. I am here to remind us that Fr. John knows that he is a servant of Jesus. As he serves us he must allow Jesus serve him first, as Jesus did to disciple on that Thursday evening. Jesus empties himself into Fr. John in a special way through Holy Orders. As I washed the feet of Fr. John, I remind him of his calling to go out and wash your feet every day. Fr. John empties himself to meet the need you the children of God. But note when Jesus said do this in memory of me at the last supper, he was inviting all of us to be his servant to others. Each of us needs our feet washed to make that connection of kenosis. Only when we are connected to God by letting him empty himself into us we will be filled with God’s love. When our feet are washed, we will feel the kenosis of Christ, which cannot be contained but must flow out through us. We are now all servants of God to each other.
Short Thoughts 04 16 17
Happy Easter! The resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of His earthly mission. His resurrection brings purpose and meaning to His life and His death. What a delight it must have been for Jesus, as He realized how His death was not simply a sacrifice, but a gift. How much must have Jesus relished that His resurrection would show the world death is not an end, but rather a new beginning. Jesus must have felt His divinity flow over the whole world creating a new dawn for humanity and creation. Today, we celebrate the day, which changed the face of human nature by opening for us the invitation for us to share in the divine glory. It is because of God’s love for us that Jesus was born, died, and rose for our sake!
Short Thoughts 04 09 17
Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is upon us. This week is filled with events that define our faith and the practice of our faith. As we look back, we see how Jesus came into Jerusalem as a revered leader. Then we witness how He would subsequently be betrayed, labeled a traitor and blasphemer, resulting in His horrific death. However, His glorious rising from the dead shows us the true person and the true mission. During this time of year, I often wonder what Jesus we thinking. He must have realized the chance he was taking by entering the city filled with religious pilgrims and a leadership who was uncomfortable with his teachings and his popularity. While being censured was a distinct possibility, would Jesus have considered death a reality? How much did Jesus understand about his divinity? While he would choose to follow the will of the Father, did Jesus know what the glorious resurrection would be like? While Jesus is God, Jesus is also a human person who would live and die one day at a time.
Short Thoughts 04 02 17
Today our gospel is the Raising of Lazarus. The story tells us that Jesus wept when he was told that his friend Lazarus had died. We know that Jesus used his divine powers to restore Lazarus’ life, but that is not the end purpose of the story. Jesus had human emotions like you and me. The death of a friend evoked a sense of loss, sorrow and pain. Jesus did not separate His humanity from His divinity. His two natures worked together in all of His actions. Jesus as God and as man does not want any of us to spiritually die. In a sense, he weeps every time any of us turns away from God. He wants us to have enteral life and that is why the Son of God took on human nature. Jesus came and melded the human with the divine. Jesus came to rectify humanity so that eternal life is an open invitation. Jesus raises each of us from being spiritually dead through his own personal sacrifice.
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Our human sense of sight or vision is so important to us that we often draw a parallel to it with the understanding or knowledge of something. How often do we say “I see” when we mean “I understand.” In our gospel today we hear about a man who is born blind and is given his sight through a miracle of Jesus. His world opens up and he experiences life an entirely different way. He now knows and understands the world around him more fully. But the story is not simply about giving someone physical sight. It is about opening the man, and in fact all of us, to knowledge and understanding of the presence and power of God in our lives. This sight is received through Jesus the Christ who is the way, the truth and the light. The story teaches us to see the world through the “eyes” of God. Once we see, we can follow. Once we follow, we help others to see so that they can follow.