Holy Thursday Homily
Homily notes of
Most Rev. Eamonn Walsh
Titular Bishop of Elmham and Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin
Mass of the Lord's Supper, St Mary's Pro Cathedral, 5th April 2012
What is so special about this ‘night’ – Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper?
It is the night that Jesus, through a ritual act of ‘washing feet’ showed the depth of his love that would be expressed in its fullness on the Cross the next day and made sacrament/sacrifice in the Eucharist. This pattern of deep love he sets down as the standard for his followers. This is how Jesus understands, ‘communion with Christ and communion with one another’.
Washing of feet was an onerous task at the time of Jesus. At best, people wore bare sandals on paths and roads littered with loose garbage, crusted feet, often repulsive in the heat. This was the task of the servant slaves; not of masters. In taking off his outer-garment, Jesus was in the garb of a slave. He proceeds to wash the feet even of his ‘about to be’ betrayer, still giving the opening for Judas’ change of heart.
The basin in Jesus’ hands is a ‘basin of his love’. His love was lived in his life of touching the blind, the lame, the lepers, the adulterers, the possessed and the penitent thief. All the broken people were cleansed and embraced in the basin of his love. Tomorrow, we experience the humility, in public humiliation, of his being led ‘like a lamb to the slaughter’. To find love in the darkened room of betrayal is a special love.
At the Last Supper, Jesus is giving his last talk to his followers before his death. We know how important a person’s last words are, especially when they know that they are about to die. We cling on dearly to every precious word and gesture. On that occasion, Jesus gives his clear invitation ‘I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done’.
The Last Supper that followed became a ritual and sacramental expression of Jesus’ total self-giving in love for us. The Celebrant was also the sacrifice; a pure offering by a pure offerer. Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for us to move from self-focusing darkness to the light of christian self-giving for others, leading gradually to the fullness of life and the eventual face to face life with God.
This call to service is to us all and to include all in our service. Our basin of love will soothe the brokenness of the helpless addicts in the myriad forms of appetite addiction. Soothe among others, the broken heart of the bereaved, those sexually and otherwise abused, the depressed, those worried-sick and those on 23 hour lock-up in our prisons. That is what Jesus has called us to. Jesus takes it up a notch when he washes the feet of his betrayer. The call to serve those who would or have betrayed you is no picnic. Yet it is our call.
That is what is meant by being ‘in Communion with Christ and with one another’. Eucharistic living and love are tough going. But then if someone has a heavy boulder of pain holding them down, it takes great care and team effort to set them free. That is the call of Holy Thursday; the crusted, broken, dispirited lives are in the unexpected places, and don’t always pick the most convenient times to present themselves for soothing care, in the basin of our love.
The commissioning of the volunteers for the International Eucharistic Congress, that is about to take place, will send them forward to give of themselves through their time, care and joyful welcome to all who travel to the IEC. May their example inspire many others. ENDS