Sunday, 31 March 2013

Holy Thursday Homily, 2013 - Abbot Mark

  Living of the Word  

Holy Thursday is a day for remembering.  When he was celebrating the Passover with his disciples, Jesus told them that they were to repeat that celebration in memory of him.  His words and deeds are a key that unlocks for us the power of God still active in our world.  It is consoling to relive the scenes of that Last Supper.  But warm feelings are not enough by themselves to nourish faith and strengthen our conviction in our Lord’s teaching about life now as we know it, and about its fulfilment after death.
To enter into the mystery of Holy Thursday and its fruition on that first Easter Sunday, we need, like him, to endure betrayal, personal and physical suffering before he died.  All mature life involves that. Christ, however, raised life to a new level and, in doing so, showed us its ultimate meaning.
Holy Thursday is the first of the three great events that lie at the very heart of our faith.  Together with Good Friday and Easter Sunday it gives us an insight into who Jesus is and what we are destined to become in him.  Our present life is passing but it gives us the opportunity to see into the Mystery of God and eternal life.  Our present life is not something unreal, something that we have to put up with until we get to heaven.  Jesus came to share this life with us with all its sorrows and joys.  But while he was doing that he showed his disciples that this life was a stepping stone to something greater. Life was more than present pleasure, or the pursuit of power, or the seeking of possessions.  It was more than one’s personal gratification.  God is about love and we are destined to share and give that love to others as Jesus illustrated by his own life.  This is what we celebrate during these final three days of Holy Week.
The evening meal of the Passover was celebrated by the Jews to remember the saving power of God when they were rescued from their enemies in Egypt and in later ages.  It was therefore a joyful feast. This is what Jesus and his disciples were doing.  But within this celebration evil was not far away. Judas, the disciple, was looking for a way to betray him.  Life is like that.  It was so for our Lord, it remains so for us down through the ages.  To be human is to live in a world of conflicting motives and desires.  To be saved – to become what we are destined to be – is to hold fast to our deepest desires and loyalties whatever the temptation to do what is only good for ourselves.  That is the spirit and attitude Jesus showed us on that Last Supper meal.  He served and showed respect to those who followed him.  They were disciples, but also friends.  He served them totally and showed that they had to be of service to others just as he was to them.
At the meal in the Upper Room it was only Judas who betrayed Jesus, but the rest of the disciples showed their disloyalty when they all scattered after Jesus was imprisoned and condemned.  We are all like that – weak and in great need of support.  We need God’s help and support to remain loyal to God and to one another, and to be true to ourselves.  That in fact did happen after Easter when the meaning of Jesus’ teaching finally hit them.
Good News is sweet to the ears when it is first heard.  However, it takes time, setbacks or even failure before its meaning becomes embedded in the mind and heart.  Truth and faith become stronger when they are questioned or attacked.  With the Spirit of the risen Jesus faith becomes for us the lifeblood of our faith and the love we have for others.
This evening we enjoy and thank God for the gift of the Eucharist and the example of service he given us.  The washing of feet which we now re-enact is both a reminder of what Jesus did to his disciples then, and what we need to do in many ways in our own lives for others.