Holy Thursday 2019
MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 18 April 2019
We celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We remember the moment when Jesus instituted both the Eucharist and the ministry of the priesthood in his Church.
The tone of the liturgy reflects the tone of the event it celebrates, the Lord’s Last Supper. It is thesombre tone of an intimate gathering of Jesus with his disciples; a gathering that Jesus knows is also a moment of farewell.
Jesus surprises his disciples. He get up from table and begins himself to wash the feet of his disciples. He himself take on the gesture of the ritual cleansing of the feet of those who are with him at table.
This farewell gesture of Jesus with his disciples sets a pattern that explains who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who humbles himself so that we can have life. Tomorrow in the Liturgy of Good Friday we will accompany Jesus further on this path of giving himself up for us, through his total self-giving on the Cross.
This pattern which Jesus sets tells us about Jesus himself but also about what it means to be a Christian. Through our baptism we are called to befollowers of Jesus Christ. We are therefore called to shape our lives and our commitment on the model of the life and love of Jesus. We should live as Jesus lived. We should care for others as Jesus did. It is only if I struggle to mirror the love of Jesus in my life that I become a true follower of Jesus and have the right to call myself a true Christian.
If someone calls himself or herself a Christian and lives a life the opposite of the model Jesus left us, then they are not authentic Christians. There is no half measure allowed. It is only if I struggle to mirror the love of Jesus in my life that I become a true follower of Jesus.
In washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus teaches us that being “Lord and Master” is not about power or money or popularity, or the ability to exploit people, much less about trying to control others through violence or extortion. Being a Christian means that through our lives we proclaim that “God is love”.
Christianity is about the way we live, not just about the way we talk. You can have a nice baptismal certificate and yet not be a true follower of Jesus. What do you call someone who calls himself or herself a Christian and does not attempt to live as Christ did? You call them hypocrites.
There are two types of religious hypocrites. There are hypocrites who label themselves as Christians but who in public live a life of corruption, dishonesty, hatred and intolerance and may never cross the door of a Church except on occasion to be seen. There are also hidden hypocrites who may be regularly in Church but who make up their own idea of what being a Christian means and live that idea and want others to be like them, but their idea of being a Christian is their own one, unforgiving, harsh, judgemental and self-centred.
Witnessing in our lives to the fact that “God is love”: it is extraordinary how we have so often lost sight of this central fact of our belief.
In this evening’s Gospel we also encounter another figure, that sad figure: Judas, who was to betray Jesus. At the Last Supper Jesus interprets what he had just done in washing the feet of his disciples. Then he adds: You are clean, but not all of you.
What is it that makes one unclean? In the deepest sense it is not a list of sins or improper behaviour. These are symptoms of uncleanliness. In its deepest sense what makes us unclean, what defiles us is the rejection of love, not wanting to be loved, not loving.
Sin from the beginning of creation is seen as an expression of pride. When we are proud, we may feel good and enhanced. But instead of enhancing us, pride really isolates us, it prevents us from loving. Pride makes us believe that we have no need of any purification or renewal and thus we close ourselves to love, we close ourselves to God’s saving goodness. The unfortunate Judas shows us where this closed pride can lead us.
Poor, Judas: he is the easiest one in the world to condemn. But when we look into our hearts in so many ways we can be so like him.
Holy Week should lead us away from being closed in on ourselves. The self-satisfied feel noneed for redemption. The self-obsessed will never understand freedom. The self-centred will never understand the beauty of generosity.
Jesus is with us in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, according to Saint John, is bread that is broken “for the life of the world”. The Eucharist is not about going to communion; it is about entering into communion with Jesus, allowing ourselves to be welcomed into communion with Jesus. Jesus welcomes us in all our weakness and limitations and brings us to integrity and life.
May we go away from this Eucharist on Holy Thursday evening renewed; may the Eucharist be nourishment for our lives, in our families and in our homes, in our work and in our communities, in our joys and in our sorrows and anxieties, in our moment of loneliness and when we are surrounded by the responsibilities of life, in our fight against sin and weakness, in our successes and achievements.
Above all may we experience in the Eucharist the love of a God who loved us first and enables us to be loving people.