Holy Thursday

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/03/22 at 12:00 AM

• In the 4th chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, we read:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
• To me this is one of the most consoling passages in all of Sacred Scripture, for it is a clear acknowledgement that our Lord not only understands our human frailties, but He also works on our behalf to help us find healing, and ultimately salvation.
• Thus, while a healthy and filial fear of the Lord is proper and good, we should not fear to approach Him as His children. To the contrary, whenever we are in need of mercy, forgiveness, or healing, our Lord is the first Person to Whom we should go!
• For our Lord is not only the Father par excellence, He is a priest Who lives to make sacrifice for the salvation of His people. And the sacrifice that He makes is none other than His very self.
• It is for this reason that we know Jesus Christ to be both priest and victim! Jesus is the Eternal High Priest who makes the perfect offering by which we are redeemed.
• Yet He is also the offering. He is that Lamb Without Blemish, the true Paschal Lamb that He offers on the altar of the cross as the victim for our sins.
• This is an amazing mystery that we celebrate in the Sacred Triduum that begins tonight with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. In this mystery of Jesus being both priest and victim, we see the close interconnection between the priesthood and the Eucharist.
• At the Last Supper our Blessed Lord gave us the inseparable gifts of the priesthood and the Eucharist – two sacraments by which the chasm between God and man is bridged, and by which Christ’s presence is maintained in this world.
• For through the priesthood men are ordained and set apart to stand in the place of God, to be His living presence in this world: each priest an alter Christus who provides to the Faithful that grace by which alone man can hope to be saved.
• And in the Eucharist, we who have been baptized receive, through the hands of a priest, not only Lord’s grace, but our Lord’s own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!
• These sacraments are inseparable because neither can exist without the other. Without the Eucharist, there is no priesthood; without the priesthood, there can be no Eucharist.
• Whereas the Eucharist forms the identity and purpose of the priest, being the primary reason priests are ordained, it is the priest who brings the Eucharist into being.
• The inseparable nature of these two great sacraments finds a very subtle expression in the Mass whenever a priest reverences the altar by placing his palms upon the top of the altar and kisses it.
• Keep in mind that only a priest’s hands may touch the top of the altar in this way. Why?
• When a bishop consecrates an altar, it is covered with sacred chrism as a means of
setting it apart for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for the altar is the place upon which our Lord offers Himself for us and becomes our Paschal Lamb. Thus, the altar is sacred.
• In like manner, when a man is ordained to the priesthood, his hands – which are the instruments through which the Mass is offered – are also covered in sacred chrism, making them sacred and thereby suitable to handle the sacred mysteries of God.
• Thus there is a sacred union, a sacred likeness, that exists between an altar and the hands of a priest, which is ritually expressed whenever a priest reverences the altar.
• And so it is that the twin gifts of the priesthood and the Eucharist go together, a union that we see perfectly realized in Christ Himself, Who in a charity beyond compare is both priest and victim.
• But our Lord’s charity at the Last Supper did not end with the giving of these two magnificent gifts. Desiring to give His apostles an example of charity that He wished them to follow, He humbly washed their feet. Imagine: God washing the feet of men!
• Can we think of a more humble act of charity? Although Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He kneels before His disciples and washes their feet like a common slave, an action that we memorialize in this Mass.
• This ritual action of washing feet at this Mass is not simply a memorial of our Lord’s charity. It’s an invitation to all of us.
• Like our Lord, we also must be willing to humble ourselves before others and serve them. We must be willing to give of ourselves fully through charitable words and actions, most especially through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
• Because all genuine charity is rooted in humility, charity can be a difficult virtue to practice. Charity requires that we in some measure overcome pride and sacrifice ourselves; it requires that we think of others before ourselves.
• Charity finds its perfection when we give without counting the cost.
• The good news is that God gives us the grace of charity in the Eucharist! Indeed, Pope
Emeritus Benedict XVI referred to the Eucharist as the “Sacrament of Charity.”
• He wrote, “Each celebration of the Eucharist makes sacramentally present the gift that
the crucified Lord made of his life, for us and for the whole world. In the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God’s compassion towards all our brothers and sisters. The Eucharistic mystery thus gives rise to a service of charity towards neighbor” (SC 88).
• And so whenever we worthily receive our Lord in the Eucharist, we are strengthened not only to love God more, but to love one another more, and to be able to show that love in acts of humble service.
• My brothers and sisters, our Lord gives to us tonight His greatest gifts: the Eucharist and the priesthood. In giving us these inseparable and sublime gifts, Christ gives us the gift of salvation.
• May we show our gratitude to Him by humbling loving and serving others.
• May we also adore Him tonight with great love and devotion, realizing that, while
tonight we honor Christ as our great high priest, tomorrow He will become our victim.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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