Holy Thursday of the Triduum 2020
Ordinarily, I do not post my parish homilies. I prefer this blog to remain a place of personal reflections. However, I am making an exception for Holy Thursday of 2020.
Homily – Holy Thursday 2020
It is so easy to be upset about the state of the world and our Church. The government requires us to remain at home, and the doors of the church are locked. A video stream is nice, I guess, but it is not an adequate substitute for the communal worship and fellowship of our parish. Our faith, our liturgy, is sacramental. It exists in the intersection between the spiritual and bodily, between the eternal and the temporal. However, I do not think this is a moment to lament what we have lost, because this is a moment of grace. Tonight is the most authentic Holy Thursday the Church has celebrated in many centuries.
That may seem a surprising claim, but only because we have not allowed the message of Holy Thursday to sink into our hearts. The Roman Missal subtitles Holy Thursday, “The Mass of the Lord’s Supper.” These words suggest to us that this day is a celebration of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the commemoration of the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his death. There are, without doubt, some elements of this in tonight’s liturgy. However, there is one glaring omission which demands we reevaluate the meaning of this holy day.
That omission is the gospel. Tonight, we read from the Gospel of John, which does not even mention the Eucharist at the last supper. All it says is, before Passover, they were at supper. That is all. The Church had four gospels from which to choose, and on the day she commemorates the Last Supper, she decided on the only one that does not mention it! Instead, we hear how Jesus stripped off his clothes, placed a towel around his waist, and washed the feet of his disciples. That is, we hear how God became a slave: naked, debased, and touching the dirtiest part of ancient peoples.
This scene is the meaning of Holy Thursday. The love of God is not an abstract nicety. It is not mere kindness and tolerance. The love of God is tangible and scandalous. It is a love that submits to humiliation for the sake of encountering its beloved. No one has ever been, and no one ever will be excluded from God’s love because there is no end to the humiliations he will accept for our sake. God, in Jesus Christ, has become a slave for us; he was tortured, spat upon, and mocked, for us. And he continues to be treated this way, to this very day.
Do we not know that every time the poor go hungry or thirsty because of our limitless greed, that we are torturing Jesus? Do we not know that every time we gossip and slander others to maintain our image, we spit upon the wounded face of Christ? Our choices to fight wars, destroy the environment, and dehumanize others are not sins against people who are beneath us; they are sins against the one who is infinitely superior to us! And we justify these choices, whether consciously or not, by the Eucharist.
We have made the Eucharist into an anesthetic. We have allowed our participation in this great mystery to dull our senses and convince us that we are “pretty good people.” So long as we show up to mass and get our prize, then nothing we say or do can be all that bad. Now, the Eucharist has been taken away from us. The award which soothes our wounded consciences is absent, just as in the Gospel of John. Now we must confront the truth. Pope Francis has said this is a time a judgment, not God’s judgment of the world, but our judgment. The truth of who we are, who we have become, stands revealed. The loss of health and comfort we are experiencing shows that the world was sick long before this virus. So, we must choose. Will we continue to live as before without regard for the disfigured face of Christ present in our common humanity and common home, or will we change. Will we finally unite together into a single body whose only goal is to love and live the gospel? Which is to say, will we finally become the Eucharist and not merely take it?