Maundy Thursday, 2007, Sacred Heart Cathedral

The readings of Easter Tridium  — Holy Thursday, Good Friday climaxing in the Easter Virgil – are the same for the three years A, B & C. The Holy Week is more important than Christmas for Christians. Unfortunately, because of commercial reasons, Christmas has overshadowed Easter.

Although I do not want to make this homily into a catechism class, there are certain things that Catholics should know and be reminded of constantly. We tend to forget. Repetition is mother of memory.

1.  First, Holy Thursday is also referred to as Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from the Latin word, “mandatum” which means “commanded.” What is commanded on this day? As you know, we commemorate today, the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. It was He who, in this Last Supper, taught His disciples the basic meaning of being His disciples: i.e., to love expressed in service – the washing of the feet – leading to the giving up of one’s life for the other as Jesus Himself did. St. Paul sums this up in his letter to the Romans chapter 13, verse 10: “Love is the fulfillment of all laws.”

2.  The first reading from Exodus tells us of what the Jews were commanded to do every year: to commemorate the Passover feast. The night before God saved them from slavery in Egypt, they were to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the lintel of their doors. Inside their homes, they were to eat the roasted lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. This liberation act of God of the Jews was a foreshadow of the saving act of God of the world through the suffering, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ – the Everlasting Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. I am sure you recognize this phrase that we say at every Mass just before communion.

3.  The second reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians recalls what the earliest Christians did: to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; what we now call the Eucharist or the Mass. It is strange that we should have the first and earliest record of the celebration of the Eucharist in the context of abuse of the Mass, or what it was first called, the “breaking of the bread..”  St. Paul scolded some of the Christians, who in their celebration of the love of Christ leading to self-sacrifice, practiced what was completely contrary to it: quarrelling, disunity and selfishness to the point of eating what food was brought for all leaving nothing for the poor Christians. It was similar to what we have nowadays “the potluck.” Let the warning of St. Paul to some of these Corinthians be also an admonition for us: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning (i.e., recognizing) the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” In other words, the person who does this performs such a blasphemous act and is condemned automatically. So, let us celebrate the Mass always reverently and not do bad things before, during or after Mass. Let me just give one simple example of what has and can happen nowadays:  inconsiderate driving to get out first of the Church or getting angry and using bad words to scold another person for his or her inconsideration. This is contrary to the celebration of the Eucharist – of service, of love and of patience.

4.  The Gospel reading is from St. John chapter 6. It is significant that St. John does not have the story of the Last Supper. Instead, he seems to have dovetailed the Last Supper with the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and a whole discourse of Jesus on Himself as the bread from Heaven. John chapter 6. His conclusion is: “…unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…”  I used the word “significant” because, it would appear, that St. John thinks of the Eucharist as more than just saying Mass. Pope John Paul II teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. It is linked to Jesus Christ, the living bread, being broken to feed many people. Hence the multiplication of loaves followed by a long, so to say, “sermon” on Himself being the bread from Heaven that is broken for many. We can learn from this that the Eucharist does not stop at you coming to attend the Mass. It is your whole life in imitation of Jesus Christ being broken for other people, i.e., love expressed in service leading to even laying down your lives for others. In fact, every time you do a self-sacrifice so as to help another person, it is a breaking of yourself for the other; in other words, you are participating in the Eucharist of the Lord.

I think this is more than enough for you to chew upon.