Homilette for Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 15:23-26; John 13:1-15)

At a Jewish Passover meal the youngest at table asks, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” We might make a similar question for our meeting here this evening. How is this mass different from other masses? The answer is, of course, that in this mass we give ourselves in a special way to remembering.

The word remember literally means to put the component parts or members back together. When we remember we recreate what existed in the past to make it present to us now. This evening we remember three events of faith found in the Scripture readings. First, we recall God’s liberating the Israelites from their exile in Egypt. Second, we reestablish Jesus’ initiation of the Eucharist on the night before he died. And finally, we bring to mind Jesus’ astonishing show of humility when he washes his disciples’ feet.

Dogs can remember in a sense, and we regularly pay a false compliment to computers by speaking of their memory. We must distinguish our act of remembering as different from the trivial memories in animals and machines. When we humans remember, we assign meaning to past events and allow the new meanings to shape our lives. In our first memory this evening we understand the liberation of the Israelites as our own deliverance from the captivity of sin accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our remembrance of the first Eucharist allows us to imagine the celestial banquet in which we hope to participate with Jesus, the Father, the saints, and all our beloved. Our final instance of remembering shows us to reach our heavenly goal. We are to become like Jesus imitating his service to others in the spirit of love.

Homilette for Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; John 18:1-19:42)

A woman confides that she cherishes her Catholic faith but cannot marry in the Church the man she is living with. His refusal to rid himself of vices has convinced her that he does not care about her very much. An elderly gentleman cannot confide anything because Alzheimer’s has deteriorated his mind. At one time he was a ready conversationalist. Now he sits mumbling his name, mostly passive to every question asked of him.

These two as well as the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side, the eyewitness who testifies to the blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side, and the rest of us “’look upon him whom they have pierced.’” All hopefully see more than a man who has suffered a cruel death and more than a martyr who has given his life in testimony to what he believed. All hopefully recognize the son of God Himself completely innocent of wrong-doing yet suffering in obedience to his Father so that the world may have access to eternal life.

Robert Frost wrote, “As long on earth/ As our comparisons were stoutly upward/ With gods and angels, we were men at least,/ But little lower than the gods and angels.” When we fix our eyes on Jesus crucified, we keep our comparison upward. As worthy as we may consider ourselves and as good as others may think of us, we know that in truth we are nowhere near as innocent as he. We even have to acknowledge that our sins, like the soldier’s lance, have contributed to his ordeal. Confessing our sinfulness and admitting our complicity, we become beneficiaries of the grace which the blood and water signify. This grace assures the woman that she can do what is necessary to live with integrity. It strengthens the caregivers of the gentleman with Alzheimer’s to respect his human dignity. And it provides us the spiritual strength to bear our own crosses. This grace finally leads all who accept it to eternal life.