Holy Thursday homily April 9, 2020 St Austin Church
How odd and disconcerting this year is. We gather – not in person but electronically, “virtually” – to celebrate the institution of the Eucharist – Jesus’ great gift to us of His own Body and Blood – and yet are unable to participate in receiving His Body and Blood.
Liturgically this is all wrong. Frankly, it stinks. Do you agree?
However, the Eucharist is not primarily about a ritual action or a meal. It is about a whole new mind-set, a whole new way of looking at things; A completely fresh way of acting, of thinking, of feeling, of being. Of being made “holy” – which is what SACRIFICE is all about, “sacra ficere”, to make holy.
So, in the Gospel of John which we just heard, at the Last Supper there is no report or description of the institution of the Eucharist: No telling of Jesus breaking bread, of sharing the cup, and declaring; “THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS MY BLOOD.”
Instead we have the washing of feet, an act of humble service, of self-giving, of dying to self.
The message and the impact of the Eucharist – other serving love – is encapsulated and expressed by the act of service in washing the disciples’ feet.
Jesus gave Himself for us on the Cross. That radical act of Love is symbolized BOTH by the breaking and sharing of the bread, AND by the humble washing of feet. They BOTH express the same reality of laying down your life for others.
To all of you at home: You cannot partake of Holy Communion right now. You cannot receive the consecrated host and drink from the cup of blessing.
That is a bummer. And we long for the day when we will be able to fully celebrate Mass together as the Body of Christ receiving the Body of Christ.
HOWEVER, you can still live eucharistically, still incorporate the meaning and power of the Eucharist in your life by living out Jesus’ other-serving love: because that is what Eucharist is all about.
Wash each other’s feet. Not literally, but actually: helping each other in this time of trial. Listening patiently to the lonely person. Play a silly game with the child who is bored and also scarred. Comfort the parent or spouse stressed out over loss of work and mounting bills. Take groceries to the elderly or shut in neighbor. Put on a smile when you are bored and depressed. Compliment others. Give of yourself in service. Wash each other’s feet. Then you will live what Eucharist is all about.
And eventually, hopefully, when this horrible scourge is lifted, and we can go back to something more normal, and we again gather here in church to celebrate Eucharist, it will be a far more real, meaningful, authentic celebration. For we shall have first lived it.