Holy Thursday Homily, 2013
Today is about charity, about love, about the Eucharist.
About how we live, about what it means to be a Catholic living in the world.
Communion in Christ, Communion with one another.
Nothing else matters in the end but these two pathways of intimacy, these two bonds of love. Love of God, love of neighbor.
And at the deepest level, how we desire them! Who of us does not yearn for an intimacy with the living God that is sustained and deep. That is not subject to distraction or wanderings, doubts and misgivings. Who among us is not working to be more disciplined in prayer, for their thoughts to be turned more frequently to the will of our Heavenly Father?
And likewise we find such fulfillment in intimate friendship, in sharing our time and efforts with others. How many of us wish that we spent more time intentionally with those we care about, reached out to them more frequently in compassion and concern, were not so distracted by our own needs and desires? Who among us would not want to do more for the poor, the suffering, the needy and the abandoned?
Today reminds us that the Catholic faith, the Catholic church, is precisely this community of hungry people, those who are striving to receive and give these greatest loves, love of God, love of neighbor. Who are not willing to settle for paltry, passing fancies, for infatuations and attractions that are superficial and selfish. Who know that we are made to receive real love and to give real love.
Is that not why we come here each week for the Eucharist? We know that true love is offered to us here at this altar, the altar of the Cross. There is no love more real than the love of Christ poured out for us on the cross at Calvary. There is no offering, no sacrifice of life more profound, more deep and fruitful, than the sacrifice offered to us at Mass, the sacrifice of Christ offered once for all time to the Father. Even with the failures and sins and limitations that everywhere surround us and dwell within us, the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is given to us freely, completely, and perfectly when we receive the Eucharist. We receive true love, perfect love, perfect gift. All of Christ: body and blood, soul and divinity.
This love, given to us completely in the Eucharist, is what makes us into a Church – Jesus’ life poured out into us, his Spirit dwelling within us, is what makes us brothers and sisters. We share the same life, the same love – we have been made tabernacles, vessels of divine life.
Yet what Jesus shows us as he bends down to wash the feet of the 12 today is that his love has been poured into us so that it can be offered through us to the world. The Church is not a repository for sanctity, but a dispensary of God’s love and grace.
Unlike the basin that is used tonight to catch the water that is poured over feet, Catholics must be like colanders – not collecting God’s love, but letting it pass through us to others. Pouring into us and then out of us. In and out. And this is the incredible reality that we celebrate today. Jesus could have chosen to save the world without our involvement. He could have chosen to redeem all of humanity directly. But instead he chose to involve us intimately in his work of salvation, to gather us around his table, to make us members of his body that he offers in sacrificial love for the world. We bear his name – Christian – and are sent into the world as other christs.
We are truly not our own, we have been adopted, drafted, called, set apart to be vessels of God’s love in the world, to sanctify the world by actions that are united with Christ and animated by his Spirit. When we wash feet, we not only follow Christ’s example, we are Christ who continues to wash the feet of his disciples. He redeems and sanctifies and heals and consoles and encourages through and in us. True love pours through the Church into our world, pours through us into our world. Love that is genuine, love that is selfless, love that is freely offered to all, especially to those who suffer or are alone. When I think of how many of you visit the sick, care for those who are alone or suffering. How many of you make such efforts on behalf of your children and parents. How many small and unnoticed things – hours spent in prayer, little gestures, even smiles to a visitor at Mass. How much love, how much sacrifice, how much compassion? The love of the Eucharist truly does flow through our Church.
Do we wish it flowed more strongly? Of course. We are hungry, we strive to love as Christ loved even as we are aware of our sins and failures. Yet even in our hunger, even in our striving, today it is important to praise and thank God for the Communion that we share in him and in one another: for the Eucharist that is God’s life poured out for us, and the for Church that is all of us, all of our lives poured out for the world.