Homily for Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Tonight we remember the Lord’s Supper. We participate in the memorial Jesus himself inaugurated to continue his gift of himself to everyone everywhere. Tonight we participate in the life he shares with the Father, which is the Holy Spirit. How can we even begin to contemplate this mystery, this mystery that is there from the beginning, which is revealed fully as the person of Christ, the mystery that carries all of creation in a great stream of grace back to the Father? How can we even approach this without a deep sense of vertigo?
Perhaps we might start with the basic idea of home. Perhaps each of us – though perhaps not all (and we should never forget this) – perhaps we have memories of meals, meals that brought people together, meals that were prepared lovingly, that overflowed with stories, with laughter, perhaps with tears, but always with communion, a communion of life.
Perhaps we might be blessed to have memories of meals where we knew we belonged. Maybe just the regular family dinner. Or a special holiday gathering. Even a great celebration. It might even be just a Saturday brunch ritual over the newspapers. Whatever it might be, perhaps we have a memory of ease, of forgetting the big questions, living in the moment, simply being with other people, giving and receiving company. As I said, a memory of belonging.
It is a funny word ‘belonging’. I read somewhere that belonging has an interesting meaning (308). While longing for something has the meaning of desiring something, its base meaning is more than that. To belong means to be stretched. Be longing means in a sense to reach out for something. A desire for union. Somehow our hearts reach out for something, for someone, longing to be in communion. And so to belong in some way speaks of desire but also the fulfilment of that desire. Belonging then is finding home in the very hope of union.
Tonight we participate in Christ’s belonging with the Father. Our Eucharist is based deeply in the Jewish todah sacrifice. This was an offering made by someone who had been saved by God. The ritual todah prayer took the form of a lamentation setting out the dire straits that the person had found himself or herself in. But it soon morphs into a prayer of thanksgiving for the salvation the person had experienced from God in response to this prayer. We hear one such prayer in the psalm that Jesus prays on the Cross where he says My God, my God why have your forsaken me; finishing, though, with praise of the Father.
What is crucial to note is that this type of prayer, a todah, was usually prayed by the person after being saved. Jesus, though, is praying this before his Passion. His faith in the Father has reached beyond, has passed over all that is to come. He rests totally in the heart of God the Father. His prayer of thanksgiving anticipates the Resurrection because he and the Father are one, and God is God of the living and not the dead. And so Jesus knows that even his death, when brought within their love, will taste like life.
This is the love into which we are invited. A love that anticipates everything in hope, that tastes like life. A love that stretches us. A love that longs for us. A love that has become incarnate that we might likewise belong.
To belong in hope. That is what the Eucharist commands of us. We long for the Gospel to become real in our lives. We long for God to do in us what God has revealed in Jesus. More than anything, we want to belong.
In our Mass tonight, as we remember this great truth of our belonging with God, let us play our part. Let us give God our lives. All our fears, all our worries, all our struggles, all our temptations, yes, even our sins; and of course our small wins and our relationships. Let us lift up our hearts, longing to be healed, longing to be welcomed, longing to have our lives made into temples of God’s Holy Spirit.
In a few moments time, we will remember Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet, as we have heard his command to do likewise. This is the reminder that just as we long to be with God, God longs to be with our brothers and sisters. God longs to be with them through us. As Christ makes himself food for the world in the Eucharist, as he stretches himself out between heaven and earth on the Cross, so may he stretch us, so may he make us food for our neighbours.
Tonight then let us pour out our hearts, knowing that Christ has already anticipated everything, is already keeping our hearts secure in his own Sacred Heart. In knowing we belong, let us enjoy the freedom of the children of God. And following our divine Father, let us pour out love after the pattern of Jesus and so become true members of his Body, true members of the Church.