Bishop MacDaid: Mass of the Last Supper Holy Thursday 2013

Posted on 16. Apr, 2013

Mass of the Last Supper

Holy Thursday

28 March 2013

St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 7.30pm

Introduction

 

A bhráithre agus a phobal Dé, tá fáilte romhaibh.

 

I welcome you to St. Macartan’s Cathedral

 

Holy Thursday is one of the Church’s special days of worship.  We are conscious that it is the beginning of the end of his mission on earth for Jesus Christ.  It was to turn out to be an evening of betrayal, rejection, humiliation leading to death.  In the middle of all the suffering, Jesus was to leave us the Eucharist, the breaking of bread, the distinctive gathering of the Christian community, which was to be their umbilical cord, their life link with their Lord and Master.  We are the Christian community of our time and we gather as branches drawing nourishment from our source of life.  To purify ourselves to do so, let us pause a moment and ask the Lord’s forgiveness for our failures.

+Liam S. MacDaid

28 March 2013

 

Mass of the Last Supper

Holy Thursday

28 March 2013

St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 7.30pm

Homily

 

My dear friends,

 

A number of years ago there was a film on the rounds called Babette’s Feast.  A Frenchwoman comes to live in a small Scandinavian coastal community.  It is mid 19th 

century.  Telling nothing about her past, Babette cooks and cleans for two sisters who are struggling to continue the work of their father, the deceased pastor of this rather fundamentalist outpost.  Despite the best efforts of these two, the community is riven with feuds and backbiting.  The years pass and both the sisters and their charitable dependants come to rely more and more on the unobtrusive support of Babette – and particularly on her cooking.

 

Then one day out of the blue Babette learns that she has won the French lottery.  The spinsters are convinced she will now leave them and sure enough Babette asks for time off.  She uses this time, however, only to assemble the food and wine she needs to offer the community a very special feast in gratitude for their accepting her into their midst.  At first the community does not want to accept the invitation.  Then they decide to come but to abstain from consuming anything as a sign of its disapproval of such luxury.  In the event, not only does everyone come but the experience of the feast as it progresses gradually transforms their hatreds and brings about the reconciliation of their differences and divisions.   The story ends with the community coming out from their feast into the frosty starlit night and dancing hand in hand in the village square to the light of the stars.

 

In his account of the Last Supper John does not concentrate on the bread and wine and their blessing.  This might seem odd at first sight.  But John had already spent the whole sixth chapter of his gospel giving the teaching of Jesus on the gift of himself in his body and blood.  His passion and death and all that went with them are just around the corner.  John, at this point, is concerned about being the Body of Christ and living as the Body of Christ in the world.

 

He rises from the table, alerts all to the resurrection to come and his power to raise the dead and heal.  Then he lays aside his garments and leaves himself without any symbol of protection.  He takes up the towel, symbol of the servant and his work.  Just as he will give up his life over the next twenty four hours, he firstly pours himself out for the disciples in a symbolic act.  He washes their feet, the work of a servant on what is not the most admired part of the body.  He makes them clean, welcomes and relaxes them, enabling them to let go of all that is dark and ugly.  Then he wipes their feet with a towel restoring life to the feet and to the body.

 

The apostles were shocked and understandably highly embarrassed when Jesus performed the task of a servant.  Jesus was their leader and teacher.  Yet here he was saying through his actions that leadership required humble service.  It was no wonder Peter objected; he felt he should have been washing the feet of Jesus, not the other way around.  If we see this incident just as something in the past which is remembered on Holy Thursday, we have missed the point.  We may never need to wash each other’s feet literally, but we are daily surrounded by people with many needs.  If we only opened our eyes, we could see the vast potential of what good can come from humble service, not least to the doer.  Parents attend to all kind of wounds physical and psychological, the teacher’s understanding and sensitivity rescues many a potentially dangerous situation and nurses and care workers sensitively help with intensely private personal tasks which their patients can no longer perform independently.  Holy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ examples of humble service and also celebrates the many tiny acts we can overlook or take for granted.

 

Holy week is a time when we try to allow the full force of the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection to touch our lives.  The real test of the authenticity of our worship and prayers is whether the daily action of our lives is touched and transformed.  We have to bring our lives into the light of this mystery to be able to see more clearly and maybe for the first time.  If we bring greater awareness to the word of God during these days we will enrich our participation together in the Eucharist.  As the darkness of our lives is touched by this mystery, we do not just see more clearly but we learn how to let go of our hatreds and bring about the reconciliation of our differences and divisions.  We learn to give ourselves in humble service, to love one another in the manner Christ intended.  Then we can come out even on frosty starlit nights and join hand in hand in the dance of creation in the village square to the light of the stars.

 

+Liam S. MacDaid

28 March 2013

                   

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