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Holy Thursday

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HOMILY OF BISHOP STEVEN J RAICA
MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER - MARCH 24, 2016


At the very heart of what we do is the Eucharist. It is the result of the Last Supper that we have the priesthood and the Eucharist. It is perhaps the most precious gift that Jesus left us. We know that it is the sacrifice of Christ made present today. He offers Himself for us. And, we receive Him – His Body and His Blood in the Eucharist – Holy Communion.

All of this is not without a deeper meaning that for us becomes such a beautiful thing to think about.

This was the time of year, during the season of Passover and during the Passover Meal (called a Seder), that a ritual meal was celebrated that recalled how the Israelites were delivered from the oppression of the Egyptians. During the meal, the youngest member of the family asks a dramatic question; “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The same would have been true at the Last Supper – a Passover Seder meal – probably it was John, the youngest member there who asked that question! But our Lord added to it the command, “Love one another." This is the very heart of the Eucharist – as I have loved you, now you love one another. It is the challenge of the Christian community as well. Love one another. Our Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services are some of the most effective agencies for expression the institutional love of the Catholic community around the world. But, it is not the institution that must carry this out, effective as it may be, it is each one of us – in our families, in our parishes, in our communities, in our towns and cities and neighborhoods.

I often ask myself, even in my prayer, “Am I loving this person or that person the way the Lord loves him or her?” That gives me a good yardstick on whether I am meeting the challenge of living up to my Christian responsibility.

The Eucharist that we celebrate week after week is a reminder of one who has given His very life for us. Even the early community of believers was not perfect and relied on the mercy of God. In that Upper Room, they came together in spite of the betrayals and denials and shortcomings of each. They heard them when they said, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world!” They remembered him when he reminded them, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have life.” “This is my body given for you … This is my blood poured out for you.” “I will not leave you orphans.” Our Lord remains with us.

We are not creating something ourselves. It has been handed down to us from one generation to the next that these promises are true and beautiful for the Christian community. These promises became so central to their life that they couldn’t imagine Christ not with them each and every day. Some would say boldly, “Without you, O Christ, I cannot live.” The experience of Christ became everything for them.

So this night is really different for us. What we do is not just think about what God did in the past. Rather we recall that he came to earth and left us a way to find Him and to be found by Him.

In a short while, we will do what Jesus did in the washing of feet. It is an odd thing we do, but one that reminds us that Jesus is the servant of all and honors us in this gesture, inviting us to do the same.

We will leave here at the conclusion of Mass to reflect on what the disciples did – to watch and pray. We pray that we will be one with him. We will think about what this night means in the very heart of our lives. Can we live for Him? Will we recognize the presence of Christ in each other and proclaim Him by our lives, by our culture?

The greatest hope we have with us tonight will remain with us, nourish and strengthen us and enable us to live for Him.

That’s why this night is so different for us, because at the heart of it is not a memory of the past, a nice thought of liberation, but a person who offers us His life so that we may live!

May God bless you!

 

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