washing feet Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-30-e1397636910875Homily for Mass – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Thursday, 18th April, 2014

Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ So we hear in the book of the prophet Isaiah. In the Gospel text we’ve just listened to, Jesus washes the feet of those apostles who would go out over all the earth, bringing good news, proclaiming peace, bringing good tidings, proclaiming salvation, saying, “our God reigns!”

Tonight is the beginning – it’s the beginning of our paschal triduum – these three great days – and tonight celebrates the beginning of apostolic ministry in the Church.

Holy Thursday is also known as Maundy Thursday, named after the latin word mandatum, in English: “mandate.” At the conclusion of our Gospel tonight we hear one part of that mandate that Jesus gave his Church through the apostles: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” The great mandate, or commandment, of Jesus is that we love one another, and tonight Jesus gives a practical demonstration of that mandate: he makes himself menial, he humbles himself, and he washes his disciples’ feet. We will re-enact that scene in a few moments time as a gesture of our willingness to recommit ourselves to Jesus’ command.

We also hear another command of Jesus tonight in our Second Reading: at that last supper with his chosen band he takes the bread and wine and institutes the Eucharistic banquet, commanding the apostles to do this as a memorial of me.

In the Gospel we hear that when Jesus comes to Peter, Peter doesn’t want to let Jesus wash his feet. And Jesus says, if I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.

In this flowing water, pouring out over feet being washed, perhaps we can see an image of the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ. Jesus’ humble act of self-giving service in washing feet reaches its zenith tomorrow when he completely humbles and empties himself as he gives his life for our sake on the Cross. When Christ’s side is pierced on the Cross, blood and water flowed from his side, which we say is the fountain of sacramental life in the Church.

Jesus wants us to be washed in that fountain – just as he insisted on Peter’s feet being washed. If we don’t allow ourselves to be washed, we can have nothing in common with Jesus. By being washed in that fountain, we can draw close to Jesus, and have everything in common with him.

Jesus wants us to come to his open Heart, and to remain immersed in those torrents of Blood and Water that flow from His Side. Through the apostolic ministry in the Church we have the Sacraments, through which God communicates grace to us, and communicates his very life to us.

Tonight in a special way we give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist to us. The eucharist is our viaticum … not just food for the moment of death, but our daily food for our earthly journey through time until our final day arrives. Through the eucharist, Christ changes us into himself. We become what we receive. We are built up into the Body of Christ. What a gift it is to us, that daily through the hands of priests, Christ becomes truly present in the bread and wine on our altars, and he comes to be our food. And what’s more, his real presence remains in the consecrated species, so that as we reserve the sacred elements to be taken to the sick and the dying, we have the consolation of his perpetual Eucharistic presence in all the tabernacles of the world. Such a gift leads only to thanksgiving!

Christ wants us to remain immersed in that fountain flowing from his open heart. He wants us to remain close to him in the sacraments that he has given us. Will we refuse him, like Peter tried to? Surely, we, on hearing Jesus words, like Peter will want ourselves to be washed. To avail ourselves of these treasures of His love that he has given us.

As we sit at the supper table with Jesus, he washes us … he washes our feet – all of us – he wants to make clean and make beautiful the feet of those who will bring good news across the earth, who will proclaim peace, who will bring good tidings, who will proclaim salvation, who will say to His people, ‘Your God reigns!’

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(1) Dom Mark Kirby OSB, http://vultus.stblogs.org/index.php/2014/04/nothing-of-what-i-see-escapes-the-reach-of-my-mercy/
(2) Aidan Nichols OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, volume 2, p. 149-151