The Mass of the Lord's Supper (Holy Thursday)
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Homily Notes for Holy Thursday 2022
· Why is this night different from every other night? This question was posed by Jewish children for centuries, and continues to be so at sedar suppers, whenever the Passover was celebrated.
· Their parents would respond that this night was different from all others for it remembers when the Angel of Death passed over the Israelites, and seeing the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes, spared their firstborns from death and prepared the people to journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
· Many centuries later, this question of what makes this night different from other nights speaks to our celebration of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, where once again we hear the story of the first Passover and its ultimate fulfillment in the First Holy Mass that our Lord celebrates with his chosen 12, giving them the gift of sharing in His Holy Priesthood and the greatest gift of gifts, The Body and Blood of the Lamb of God that is the Holy Eucharist.
· There are notable differences in this celebration, always celebrated in the evening hours, from other celebrations of the Holy Mass throughout the year. Among the most obvious is the centuries long custom of a priest washing the feet of individuals as a reminder for us to imitate our Lord’s example of charity and service that shows the world will we are Christians on account of our love for one another and willingness to serve.
· But there is another feature of this evening’s celebration that is different from all other Masses offered throughout the year and one that often goes unnoticed in its unsettling significance.
· That feature is that our tabernacle is currently empty. In this church, we know that the Eucharist is present in our tabernacle when the sanctuary lamp is lit, the sanctuary gates are closed and lights illuminate the tabernacle and angels that perpetually adore our Eucharistic Lord. Yet tonight the sanctuary lamp is extinguished, the gates recessed into the wall, all lights removed to keep the angels in darkness and most unsettling of all, the door of the tabernacle is wide open and Our Lord is not there.
· Many have said that the tabernacle is the beating heart of every parish church since it is the guarantee to the faithful that Christ is with us and God is near. It is also a fulfillment of what Jesus said on the day of His Ascension that He will be with us always in the Eucharist, until the end of time.
· But for this evening, the duration of Good Friday and most of Holy Saturday, our tabernacle will remain empty and for many be an unsettling sign as they look to genuflect or bow to the Eucharistic Lord, only to realize he is not there. The empty tabernacle serves as a sign for over the next three days to show how Jesus was taken from us as we relive the Passion of Christ when betrayed, imprisoned, beaten, crucified and buried.
· While it is the custom on Holy Thursday after this Mass for the faithful to take time to pray at the altar of repose, which has been set up in the parish hall, with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament until midnight as our way of making our own Garden of Gethsemane to stay with Jesus when long ago those he loved feel asleep and ran away in fear when He needed them most, the sign of the empty tabernacle in the sanctuary of our Church for the next few days is very important for us to consider what it would be like if our tabernacles were to one day be perpetually empty?
· God forbid that such a time should occur when the Eucharist was taken away from our tabernacles, but our Church always faces this tragic scenario if we not promote and support priestly vocations and so see more parishes without priests to assure the Eucharist remains at the heart of our faith communities. It could occur if faith to be lost the belief that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist and few bothered to spend time with him in prayer and devotion. It could occur in a parish community that did not seek to evangelize others and see its membership dwindle to the point of having to close their church building and witness that unsettling day the Eucharist was removed from the tabernacle for the last time as the church was shuttered and sold.
· I pray that such scenarios would not come to pass here or in other churches around the world but we know that such scenarios are occurring now and sadly into the future. We trust that the Lord will never abandon his Church and the gift of the Eucharist but he challenges every parish community to look deep within to ask what we will do to assure the Eucharist remains the beating heart of that parish community?
· Might I ask tonight that each of us take time this evening or in the coming days to ask ourselves just how important the Eucharist is to me, to my family, to my faith community, and what emotions enter my heart as I see an empty tabernacle this evening and ponder what a perpetually empty one would look like if such a tragedy to take place?
· St John declared that at the Last Supper, having loved his own who were in the world, Jesus loved them to the end. This love story is found most wonderfully in the gift of the Eucharist as Our Lord deigns to reign within every tabernacle around the world. It is the throne from which he remains in our churches, wonderful in being among us and vulnerable to receive both our affection and indifference. It is love that we find when we pray before him and receive him and it is love that we can offer in return.
· Remain with us always Lord Jesus and help us to do our uttermost to remain with you!