Holy Thursday evening Mass (April 9) 1-page summary for an 8-minutes homily.
Introduction: On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners, and preach the Good News of salvation, 3) the anniversary of Jesus’ promulgation of his new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering of a lamb to God. They called this celebration the “Pass over.” The descendants of Cain, who were farmers, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37) was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God and celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for His miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt, and their final arrival in the Promised Land.
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, God gives the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal, and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter. In the second reading, Paul suggests that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, from the very beginning of the Church, was an unbroken tradition by which Christians reminded themselves of the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. After washing the feet of his apostles and commanding them to do humble service for each other, Jesus concluded the ceremony by giving his apostles his own body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine as spiritual food and drink, in addition to serving the roasted Paschal lamb.
Life Messages: 1) A challenge for humble service. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting any reward. 2) A loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the self-giving model of Jesus who shares with us his own Body and Blood and who enriches us with his real presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 3) An invitation to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” really means, “Go in peace to love and serve one another.’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness, and the spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us.
HOLY THURSDAY (April 9): EVENING MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15) [Bishop’s Chrism Mass: Is 61:1-3a; 6a, 8b-9; Rv 1:5-8; Lk 4:16-21] Full text
Homily starter anecdote: # 1: Astronaut Mike Hopkins is one of the select few who spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013. And though he was thrilled when he was chosen for a space mission, there was one Person he didn’t want to leave behind: Jesus in the Eucharist. Hopkins had been received into the Church less than a year before his launch. After a long wait, he was finally able to receive Our Lord at each Mass. Facing the prospect of being off the planet for half a year, he decided he had to find out if Jesus could travel with him. It turns out he could — and he did. He says, “In 2011, I got assigned to a mission to the International Space Station. I was going to go up and spend six months in space, starting in 2013. So I started asking the question, ‘Is there any chance I can take the Eucharist up with me into space?’ The weekend before I left for Russia — we launched on a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan — I went to Mass one last time, and [the priest with permission from his bishop] consecrated the wafers into the Body of Christ, and I was able to take the pyx with me. NASA has been great. … They didn’t have any reservations about me taking the Eucharist up or to practicing my faith on orbit. The Russians were amazing. I went in with all my personal items, and I explained what the pyx was and the meaning of it to me — because for them, they, of course, saw it just as bread, if you will, the wafers — and yet for me [I knew] it was the Body of Christ. And they completely understood and said, ‘Okay, we’ll estimate it weighs this much, and no problem. You can keep it with you.’ All these doors opened up, and I was able to take the Eucharist up — and I was able to have Communion, basically, every week. There were a couple of times when I received Communion on, I’ll say, special occasions: I did two spacewalks; so on the morning of both of those days, when I went out for the spacewalk, I had Communion. It was really helpful for me to know that Jesus was with me when I went out the hatch into the vacuum of space. And then I received my last Communion on my last day on orbit in the “Cupola,” which is this large window that looks down at the Earth, and that was a very special moment before I came home.” (http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/what-is-it-like-to-receive-the-eucharist-in-space) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 2 The Stole and the Towel is the title of a book, which sums up the message of the Italian bishop, Tony Bello, who died of cancer at the age of 58. On Maundy Thursday of 1993, while on his deathbed, he dictated a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese. He called upon them to be bound by “the stole and the towel.” The stole symbolizes union with Christ in the Eucharist, and the towel symbolizes union with humanity by service. The priest is called upon to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist and with the people as their servant. Today we celebrate the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood: the feast of “the stole and the towel,” the feast of love and service. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 3: Communion on the moon: The Lord’s Supper ensures that we can remember Jesus from any place. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Most remember astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first words as he stepped onto the moon’s surface: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But few know about the first meal eaten on the moon. Dennis Fisher reports that Buzz Aldrin, the NASA astronaut had taken aboard the spacecraft a tiny pyx provided by his Catholic pastor. (Aldrin was Catholic, probably, until his second marriage, when he became a Presbyterian. See the Snopes citation given below). Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of the day and give thanks. Then, blacking out the broadcast for privacy, Aldrin read, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” Then, silently, he gave thanks for their successful journey to the moon and received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, surrendering the moon to Jesus. Next, he descended on the moon and walked on it with Neil Armstrong [Dan Gulley, “Communion on the Moon,” Our Daily Bread (June/July/August, 2007)]. His actions remind us that in the Lord’s Supper, God’s children can share the life of Jesus from any place on Earth — and even from the moon. God is everywhere, and our worship should reflect this reality. In Psalm 139 we are told that wherever we go, God is intimately present with us. Buzz Aldrin celebrated that experience on the surface of the moon. Thousands of miles from earth, he took time to commune with the One who created, redeemed, and established fellowship with him. (Dennis Fisher) http://www.smithvillechurch.org/html/body_remembering_jesus_on_the_moon.html https://www.rbc.org/devotionals/our-daily-bread/2007/07/20/devotion.aspx, http://www.snopes.com/glurge/communion.asp Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 4: Why is the other side empty? Have you ever noticed that in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper everybody is on one side of the table? The other side is empty. “Why’s that?” someone asked the great artist. His answer was simple. “So that there may be plenty of room for us to join them.” Want to let Jesus do his thing on earth through you? Then pull up a chair and receive him into your heart, especially in Holy Week (Fr. Jack Dorsel). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass; 2) the anniversary of the institution of the ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners, and preach the Good News of salvation; 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. In its origins, the Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering to God of a lamb. They called this celebration the “Pass over.” The descendants of Cain, who were farmers, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving. It was instituted by the Lord God, Who commanded all Israelites to celebrate the Feast yearly as their thanksgiving to Him for His miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt, and their final arrival in the Promised Land.
Scripture lessons summarized: The Jewish Passover was an eight-day celebration during which unleavened bread was eaten. The Passover meal began with the singing of the first part of the “Hallel” Psalms (Ps 113 &114), followed by the first cup of wine. Then those gathered at table ate bitter herbs, sang the second part of the “Hallel” Psalms (Ps 115-116), drank the second cup of wine and listened as the oldest man in the family explained the significance of the event in answer to the question raised by a child. This was followed by the eating of a lamb (the blood of which had previously been offered to God in sacrifice), roasted in fire. The participants divided and ate the roasted lamb and unleavened Massoth bread, drank the third cup of wine and sang the major “Hallel” psalms (117-118). In later years, Jews celebrated a miniature form of the Passover every Sabbath day and called it the “Love Feast.”
The first reading, taken from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover when the Israelites celebrated God’s breaking the chains of their Egyptian slavery and leading them to the land He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He established a covenant with them, making of them His own beloved people. God gave the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal [to be held annually in later years], and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter. This tradition continued in the Church as the Lord’s Supper, with the Eucharist as its focal point. In the second reading, Paul identifies a source and purpose for the communal celebration of the Lord’s Supper beyond that was passed on to him upon his conversion, namely that which he had received this “from the Lord.” This suggests that, from the very beginning of the Church, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition. Paul implies that another purpose of this celebration was to “proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.” Paul may simply mean that Christians, by this ritual act, remind themselves of the death and Resurrection of Jesus; he may also mean that Christians prepare themselves for the proclamation of Christ to the world at large. Addressing abuses and misunderstandings concerning the “breaking of the bread” in the Corinthian church, Paul gives us all the warning that if we fail to embrace the spirit of love and servanthood in which the gift of the Eucharist is given to us, then “Eucharist” becomes a judgment against us. In harmony with these readings, today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. First, he washed His Apostles’ feet – a tender reminder of his undying affection for them. (On Good Friday he washes us again, but this time in the humble flow of his own blood. Fr. Foley SJ). Then he commanded them to do the same for each other. The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us. Finally, Jesus gave his apostles his own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as Food and Drink for their souls, so that, as long as they lived, they’d never be without the comfort and strength of his presence. Thus, Jesus washed their feet, fed them, and then went out to die for us all. This Gospel episode challenges us to become, for others, Christ the healer, Christ the compassionate and selfless brother, Christ the humble “washer of feet.”
Exegetical notes: Jesus’ transformation of his last Seder meal (Last Supper) into the first Eucharistic celebration is described for us in today’s Second Reading and Gospel. (John in his account of the Last Supper, makes no mention of the establishment of the Eucharist because his theology of the Eucharist is detailed in the “bread of life” discourse following the multiplication of the loaves and fish at Passover, in chapter 6 of his Gospel.) Jesus, the Son of God, began his Passover celebration by washing the feet of his disciples (a service assigned to household servants), as a lesson in humble service, demonstrating that he “came to the world not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). He followed the ritual of the Jewish Passover meal up to the second cup of wine. After serving the roasted lamb as a third step, Jesus offered his own Body and Blood as food and drink under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, he instituted the Holy Eucharist as the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with His people as their living, Heavenly Food. This was followed by the institution of the ministerial priesthood with the command, “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus concluded the ceremony with a long speech incorporating his command of love: “Love one another as I have loved you”(Jn 13:34). Thus, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at a private Passover meal with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 21:7-23). There, He served as both the Priest and the Victim of His sacrifice. As John the Baptist had previously predicted (John 1:29, 36), Jesus became the Lamb of God, who would “take away the sins of the world.”
The transformation of Jesus’ Passover into the Holy Mass: The early Jewish Christians converted the Jewish “Sabbath Love Feast” of Fridays and Saturdays (the Sabbath), into the “Memorial Last Supper Meal” of Jesus on Sundays. The celebration began with the participants praising and worshipping God by singing psalms, reading the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and listening to the teachings of Jesus as explained by an apostle or by an ordained minister. This was followed by an offertory procession, bringing to the altar the bread and wine to be consecrated and the covered dishes (meals) brought by each family for a shared common meal after the Eucharistic celebration. Then the ordained minister said the “institution narrative” over the bread and wine and all the participants received the consecrated Bread and Wine, the living Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of the crucified and risen Jesus. This ritual finally evolved into the present day Holy Mass in various rites, incorporating various cultural elements of worship and rituals.
Life Messages: 1) We need to render humble service to others. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, especially when they don’t deserve our love, and to do good to them, even when they don’t return the favor. It is to consider others’ needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even though they don’t say, “I’m sorry.” It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we’re treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others’ needs without expecting any reward. In doing and suffering all these things in this way, we love and serve Jesus Himself, as He has loved and served us and has taught us to do. (Mt 25:31-ff).
2) We need to practice sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the self-giving model of Jesus who shares with us his own Body and Blood and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
3) We need to show our unity in suffering. The Bread we eat is produced by the pounding of many grains of wheat, and the Wine we drink is the result of the crushing of many grapes. Both are thus symbols of unity through suffering. They invite us to help, console, support, and pray for others who suffer physical or mental illnesses.
4) We need to heed the warning: We need to make Holy Communion an occasion of Divine grace and blessing by receiving it worthily, rather than making it an occasion of desecration and sacrilege by receiving Jesus while we are in grave sin. That is why we pray three times before we receive Communion, “Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us,” with the final “have mercy on us” replaced by “grant us peace.” That is also the reason we pray the Centurion’s prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Mt 8:8). And that is why the priest, just before he receives the consecrated Host, prays, “May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life,” while, just before drinking from the Chalice, he prays, “May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”
5) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: In the older English version of the Mass, the final message was, “Go in peace to love and serve one another,” that is, to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us. That message has not changed, though the words are different.
23 Additional anecdotes:
1)”What did you have for breakfast today?” President Nelson Mandela of South Africa is one of those rare politicians who has the common touch even when the cameras are not rolling. When he speaks at banquets, he makes a point of going into the kitchen and shaking hands with every dishwasher and busboy. When out in public he often worries his bodyguards because he is prone to stop to talk with a little child. Typically, he will ask, “How old are you son?” Then his next question is, “What did you have for breakfast today?” In that strange, wonderful company called the Kingdom of God, even the bosses wash feet. Have you allowed Jesus to give you a servant’s heart and servant’s hands? Be servant leaders in a serving community! Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Jesus has no desire to be cloned: That night in the upper room Jesus knew what it would take to change the world — not strife and revolution, not warfare and bloodshed, but love, sincere, self-sacrificing love on the part of his people. Last November, Dr. Avi Ben-Abraham, head resident of the American Cryogenics Society, told an audience in Washington, D.C., that several high-ranking Roman Catholic Church leaders had privately told him that despite the Church’s public stance against research in genetics and gene reproduction and experimentation in artificial life production, they personally supported his way-out research. According to Ben-Abraham, those Church leaders hope to reproduce Jesus Christ from DNA fibers found on the Shroud of Turin. If Dr. Ben-Abraham is right, somebody’d better tell those venerable church leaders that Jesus has no desire to be cloned — except in the lives of those who love him and follow him. That’s why He takes bread and wine and gives us Himself in Holy Communion, to bring us forgiveness and to strengthen us to love one another. “This is My will — this is My commandment for you — love one another” (Jn 13:34). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3)“Jesus Christ gave a lasting memorial”: One of his Catholic disciples asked the controversial god-man Osho Rajneesh about the difference between Buddha the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ. Rajneesh told a story to distinguish between Buddha and Christ. When Buddha was on his deathbed, his disciple Anand asked him for a memorial and Buddha gave him a Jasmine flower. However, as the flower dried up, the memory of Buddha also dwindled. But Jesus Christ instituted a lasting memorial without anybody’s asking for it by offering his Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine and commanding his disciples to share his Divinity by repeating the ceremony. So Jesus continues to live in his followers while Buddha lives only in history books. On Holy Thursday we are reflecting on the importance of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. [Osho Rajneesh claimed himself to be another incarnation of God who attained “enlightenment” at 29 when he was a professor of Hindu philosophy in Jabalpur University in India. He had thousands of followers for his controversial “liberation through sex theology,” based on Hindu, Buddhist and Christian theology.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “Now she’s ready for living–in this life and the next.” TV pastor Robert Schuller tells about the time Bishop Fulton Sheen spoke at the Crystal Cathedral. Fulton Sheen was one of the most effective religious communicators of his time. In the early 1950s, his weekly television broadcast was the most popular program in the country. Because he was so popular, thousands of people came to hear Sheen at the Crystal Cathedral. After the message, he and Robert Schuller were able to get to their car only because a passageway was roped off. Otherwise, they would have been mobbed. Along both sides of the ropes, people were reaching out in an attempt to touch the bishop. It was as if the pope himself had come to town. As Sheen was passing through this section on his way to his car, someone handed him a note, which he folded and put into his pocket. Then, as he and Schuller were on their way to the restaurant where they were going to eat lunch, Bishop Sheen pulled out that note, read it, and asked Schuller, “Do you know where this trailer park is?” Schuller looked at the note and said, “Yes, it’s just a couple of miles from here.” The bishop said, “Do you think we could go there before we go to lunch?” “Sure,” Schuller answered. “We have plenty of time.” So they drove to this little trailer park, and Bishop Sheen went up to one of the trailers and knocked on the door. An elderly woman opened the door, and seemed surprised–flabbergasted, really–when she saw who had come to visit her. She opened the door and the bishop went in. After a few moments, he came out, got back in the car and said, “Now she’s ready for living–in this life and the next.” [Robert A. Schuller, Dump Your Hang-ups (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993).] Bishop Sheen showed the Spirit of Jesus on Holy Thursday. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) A president in servant’s role: “When I try to tell people what Ronald Reagan was like,” says Peggy Noonan, former White House speechwriter, “I tell them the bathroom story.” A few days after President Reagan had been shot, when he was able to get out of bed, he wasn’t feeling well, so he went into the bathroom that connected to his room. He slapped some water on his face and some of the water slopped out of the sink. He got some paper towels and got down on the floor to clean it up. An aide went in to check on him, and found the president of the United States on his hands and knees on the cold tile floor, mopping up water with paper towels. “Mr. President,” the aide said, “what are you doing? Let the nurse clean that up!” And President Ronald Reagan said, “Oh, no. I made that mess, and I’d hate for the nurse to have to clean it up.” [Pat Williams, The Paradox of Power (New York: Warner Faith, 2002).] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) Waiting and remembering: One day the professor of Eucharistic theology came in carrying a brown paper bag and declared that his theology students were going to learn the significance of the Lord’s Supper. As he began to talk he reached into the bag and pulled out a hand full of Buckeyes, and began throwing them, one by one, to each member of the class. (If you are not familiar with the Buckeye, it is the large, shiny brown seed of the Horse Chestnut tree. It is especially abundant in Ohio, which is the reason Ohio is known as the Buckeye State.) The professor then reached into his own pocket and removed a small, brown, shriveled up something. Holding it between his two fingers for all to see he said to the class, “See this? This is a Buckeye like you have. I have been carrying it around in my pocket since 1942. I had a son who went off to the war that year. When he left he gave me this Buckeye, and told me to put it in my pocket and keep it there until he came home. That way each time I reached in my pocket I would always remember him. Well, I have been carrying that Buckeye in my pocket since 1942. And I have been waiting. Waiting for my son to come back, and each time I reach in my pocket I remember my son.” Eucharistic celebration is about waiting and remembering. Each time, we, as a community of Faith, gather around the table to take the consecrated Bread and Wine we are remembering, and we are proclaiming that we are waiting for our Lord to return. (Jerry Fritz, http://leiningers.com/waiting.html). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “You don’t recognize me, do you?” There is an old legend about DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper. In all of his paintings he tried to find someone to pose who fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a 19-year old to portray Jesus. It took him six months to paint the face of Jesus. Seven years later DaVinci started hunting for just the right face for Judas. Where could he find one that would portray that image? He looked high and low. Down in a dark Roman dungeon he found a wretched, unkempt prisoner who could strike the perfect pose. The prisoner was released to his care and when the portrait of Judas was complete the prisoner said to the great artist, “You don’t recognize me, do you? I am the man you painted seven years ago as the face of Christ. O God, I have fallen so low.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “I am among you as one who serves.” One of our most famous Memphians is the brilliant soprano, Kallen Esperian. We swell with pride as we see her recognized as one of the world’s most talented vocalists. But when I think of Kallen, something else comes to mind. Almost two years ago a member of our Christ Church prison ministry had the nerve to invite Kallen to go along to the city jail and to sing as part of the worship service there. She did it. Here was a world-class talent, the toast of concert halls around the world, singing a Gospel song for free in the Memphis city jail. She imbued the real spirit of Jesus. After washing the feet of the apostles Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) Precious gift: We are all familiar with the situation of the little boy who wants to give his father a birthday present but does not have any money to buy one. His father, realizing his son is too young to be able to earn any money, slips him five bucks so that he can do some shopping the next time they are in town. The big day comes, and the little boy proudly presents his father with a beautifully wrapped, birthday gift. He is so very happy and proud of himself. So is his father – proud and happy to have such a loving son. God gave us his Son so that we could give him back as a gift and become once again his sons and daughters. Jesus Christ was placed in our hands so that we could have a gift, the best of gifts. During each Eucharistic celebration we give this precious gift back to God the Father. Today we celebrate the feast of the First Mass (Fr. Jack Dorsel). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “Gone, But Not for Cotton:” There is an absolutely terrible old joke about a bill collector in Georgia who knocked on the door of a client who lived out in a rural area. This client owed the bill collector’s company money. “Is Fred home?” he asked the woman who answered the door.” Sorry,” the woman replied. “Fred’s gone for cotton.” The next day the collector tried again. “Is Fred here today?” “No, sir,” she said, “I’m afraid Fred has gone for cotton.” When he returned the third day, he said sarcastically, “I suppose Fred is gone for cotton again?” “No,” the woman answered solemnly, “Fred died yesterday.” Suspicious that he was being avoided, the bill collector decided to wait a week and check out the cemetery himself. Sure enough, there was poor Fred’s tombstone. On it was this inscription: “Gone, But Not for Cotton.” That’s terrible, I know, but it is a reminder that tonight as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming that Christ is neither gone nor forgotten. We assert our Faith that He is present, here with us, as we receive Holy Communion in remembrance of him. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) “I still think they are wonderful.” Dr. Robert Kopp tells of an interview someone did with the great composer Irving Berlin. We remember Berlin for favorites like “God Bless America,” “Easter Parade,” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Berlin was asked, “Is there any question you’ve never been asked that you would like someone to ask you?” “Well, yes, there is one,” Berlin replied. He posed the question himself: “What do you think of the many songs you’ve written that didn’t become hits?” Then he answered his own question: “My reply would be that I still think they are wonderful.” Then he added, “God, too, has an unshakable delight in what–and whom–He has made. He thinks each of His children is wonderful, and, whether they’re a ‘hit’ in the eyes of others or not, He will always think they’re wonderful.” Irving Berlin hit it right on the head. Here is the critical truth about Faith–it is grounded in God’s wondrous love for us. We may not feel worthy to be loved, we may even repudiate that love–but we cannot keep God from loving. That is God’s very nature. God is love. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) “Forget-me-not:” There is an old legend that after God finished creating the world, He still had the task of naming every creature and plant in it. Anyone who has ever faced the task of naming a newborn knows this is not as easy as it seems. Thinking Himself finished at last, God heard a small voice saying, “How about me?” Looking down, the Creator spied a small flower. “I forgot you once,” He said, “but it will not happen again.” And, at that moment, the forget-me-not was born. [The Great American Bathroom Reader by Mark B. Charlton, (Barnes & Noble, New York, 1997), p. 260.] It’s just a silly legend–a myth, if you will–but the reason such legends and myths abound is that they reflect the truth about God. God loves. God loves each of us as if God had no one else to love. The $5,000 battery-less Sky-Eye chip was originally developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad. Sold by Gen-Etics, Sky-Eye runs solely on the neurophysiological energy generated within the human body. Gen-Etics won’t reveal where the chip is inserted but says 43 people have had it implanted. [“World Watch,” edited by Anita Hamilton, Timedigital (Nov. 30, 1998), p. 107.] It is amazing to me that it is easier for some people to believe that technology can track an individual person’s movements anywhere in the world, but that, somehow, we are lost to God. How absurd! We are under the watchful eye of a Heavenly Father Who never forgets us, never leaves us, and is always concerned about our well-being. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) “I missed!” Former President Reagan told a humorous story during the last days of his administration. It was about Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. It seems that Dumas and a friend had a severe argument. The matter got so out of hand that one challenged the other to a duel. Both Dumas and his friend were superb marksmen. Fearing that both men might fall in such a duel, they resolved to draw straws instead. Whoever drew the shorter straw would then be pledged to shoot himself. Dumas was the unlucky one. He drew the short straw. With a heavy sigh, he picked up his pistol and trudged into the library and closed the door, leaving the company of friends who had gathered to witness the non-duel outside. In a few moments a solitary shot was fired. All the curious pressed into the library. They found Dumas standing with his pistol still smoking. “An amazing thing just happened,” said Dumas. “I missed!” I am amazed how many Christians have been in the Church all their lives and still have missed the Gospel. So many folks still live in the Old Testament, bound by legalisms, restricted by the “Thou shalt nots” without being empowered by “Thou shalts.” Some are experts at the Ten Commandments, but absolute failures at the eleventh and most important of all. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men shall know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (Jn 13:34; RSV). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) He picked it up and returned it to the bench: Many years ago, a sticky situation arose at the wedding ceremony for the Duke of York. All the guests and the wedding attendants were in place. Majestic organ music filled the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. But something was wrong. As part of the marriage ceremony, the Duke and his bride were to kneel on a cushioned bench to receive a blessing. A nervous whisper spread through the congregation as guests noticed that one of the cushions from the kneeling bench had fallen on the floor. Most of the attendants standing near the kneeling bench had royal bloodlines; at the very least, they were all from the upper crust of British society. To reach down and pick up the pillow would have been beneath them. They all pretended to ignore the misplaced pillow until finally the Prince of Wales, who was a groomsman, picked it up and returned it to the bench. (George C. Pidgeon) That may not impress us very much, but in a society that is as class-conscious as British society is, this was an extraordinary act. No wonder Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) The Beloved Captain: Donald Hankey’s The Beloved Captain tells how the captain cared for his men’s feet. After long marches he went into the barracks to inspect the feet of his soldiers. He’d get down on his hands and knees to take a good look at the worst cases. If a blister needed lancing, he’d frequently lance it himself. “There was no affectation about this,” says Donald Hankey. “It seemed to have a touch of Christ about it, and we loved and honored him the more” for it. – Is there a “touch of Christ” about our concern for our brothers and sisters? “Jesus, my feet are dirty…. Pour water into your basin and come and wash my feet. I know that I am overbold is asking this, but I dread your warning, when you said, ‘If I do not wash your feet, you can have no companionship with me.’ Wash my feet, then, because I do want your companionship.” (Mark Link in Daily Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) Pope missing: A story from the life of Pope St. John Paul II brings home the profound significance of what we do tonight. Bishop John Magee, who was personal secretary to the Pope, tells about something that happened after Pope John Paul II’s election. An official came to Vatican asking to speak immediately with the new Pope. Bishop Magee went to the Pope’s room. He was not there. He went to the library, the chapel, the kitchen, even the roof. When he couldn’t find the Pope, he began to think about Morris West’s novel, The Shoes of the Fisherman. In that novel a newly elected Slavic pope slips out of the Vatican to find out what is happening with ordinary people in his new diocese. That was fiction, but if the new Pope actually did it, it might turn out badly. Then Bishop Magee ran to a priest who knew the Pope. “We’ve lost the Holy Father,” he said. “I’ve looked everywhere and cannot find him.” The Polish priest asked calmly, “Did you look in the chapel?” “Yes,” said Bishop Magee, “he was nowhere in sight.” “Go further in,” the Polish priest said, “but do not turn on the light.” Bishop Magee walked quietly into the darkened chapel. In front of the tabernacle, lying prostrate on the floor, was the Pope. The Polish priest knew that, before his election, the Pope often prostrated himself before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Tonight, we commemorate that greatest of all tangible gifts. St. Paul quotes Jesus saying, “This is my Body that is for you.” Jesus gives himself to us in a humble form – unleavened bread like that the Israelites ate during their Passover. (Fr. Phil Bloom). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Gathering together in His name: A religious persecution in 1980 left a region of Guatemala without priests. But the people continued to meet in various parishes. Once a month they sent a delegate to a part of Guatemala where priests were still functioning. Traveling up to eighteen hours on foot, the delegate celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the name of the parish. Describing one of these celebrations, Fernando Bermudez writes in his book, Death and Resurrection in Guatemala: “The altar was covered with baskets of bread. After the Mass, each participant came up to take his or her basket home again. Now the bread was Holy Communion for the brothers and sisters of each community. In time the authorities closed all Churches. But the people refused to stop gathering, recalling Jesus’ words, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). [Mark Link in Journey: Life-giving Blood; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) Film: Entertaining Angels: Twenty-year-old Dorothy Day was a reporter and a part of an elite Socialist group in New York. Dorothy encountered a homeless man and a friendly nun and followed them to a Church that had opened a soup kitchen for the poor. She often went to the kitchen to help. She began to read Catholic books and was converted. She was urged to start feeding the poor and caring for the sick. During the 1930’s Dorothy became even more socially active. She opened hospitality houses and tried to improve the lives of the poor. Dorothy led a very unconventional life by Catholic standards. Her pre-conversion past her abortion, and her decision not to marry, but to remain a single parent, are interesting because she used these unusual circumstances to follow Christ by helping the poor and homeless. She is a twentieth century model of lay holiness. Dorothy Day, like the apostles, was someone who did not have Faith at first. She gradually accepted the gift of Faith and grew in it by serving others. She spent most of her adult life living Jesus’ commandment of love. She personally cared for the indigent and homeless people in many ways, from preparing and serving meals to washing their feet. This was the life of Dorothy Day. An exasperated volunteer agreed to go on working when she wanted to quit because Dorothy had said, “You never know… you might be entertaining angels.” – On this Holy Thursday we are reminded to blend our beliefs and actions into one life lived for God. (Peter Malone in Lights, Camera, Faith; quoted by Fr. Botelho.) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) Meaningful Explanation: A man came to a priest and wanted to make fun of his Faith, so he asked, “How can bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ?” The Priest answered, “No problem. You yourself change food into your body and blood so why can’t Christ do the same?” But the man did not give up. He asked, “But how can the entire body of Christ be in such a small host?” “In the same way that the vast landscape before you can fit into your little eye.”
But he still persisted, “How can the same Christ be present in all your Churches at the same time?” The priest then took a mirror and let the man look into it. Then he let the mirror fall to the ground and break and said to the skeptic. “There is only one of you and yet you can find your face reflected in each piece of that broken mirror at the same time.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) A Walking Sermon: Reporters and city officials gathered at a Chicago railroad station one afternoon in 1953. The person they were meeting was the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A few moments after the train came to stop, a giant of a man — six foot four inches — with bushy hair and a large mustache stepped from the train. Cameras flashed. City officials approached him with hands outstretched. Various people began telling him how honored they were to meet him. The man politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment. He quickly walked through the crowd until he reached the side of an elderly black woman who was struggling with two heavy suitcases. He picked up the bags and with a smile escorted the woman to a bus. After helping her aboard, he wished her a safe journey. As he returned to the greeting party he apologized, “Sorry to have kept you waiting.” The man was Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the famous missionary doctor who had spent his life helping the poor in Africa. In response to Schweitzer’s action, one of the members of the reception committee said with great admiration to the reporter standing next to him, “That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.” Our worship should lead us to become walking sermons. Today’s Gospel about the feet washing by Jesus may be called a washing sermon. (Jeff Strite). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
21) Get inspired by the Eucharist: A few months before he died in 1979, Bishop Fulton Sheen gave a television interview. The reporter asked, “Your Excellency, you have inspired millions. Who inspired you? Was it the Pope?” Bishop Sheen responded that it was not the Pope or a cardinal or another bishop or even a priest or nun. It was an eleven-year-old girl. He explained that when the Communists took over China in the late forties, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory. Looking through the window, the priest saw the soldier enter the Church and break open the tabernacle, scattering the Blessed Sacrament on the floor. The priest knew the exact number of hosts in the tabernacle: thirty-two. Unnoticed by the soldiers, a young girl had been praying in the back of the church and she hid when they came in. That night the girl returned and spent an hour in prayer. She then entered the sanctuary, knelt and bent over to take one of the hosts on her tongue. The girl came back each night, spent an hour in prayer and received Jesus by picking up a sacred host with her tongue. The thirty-second night, after consuming the final host, she made an accidental sound awakening a guarding soldier. He ran after her and when he caught her, he struck her with the rifle butt. The noise woke the priest -but too late. From his house he saw the girl die. Bishop Sheen said that when he heard about this, it inspired him so much that he made a promise that he would spend one hour each day before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He always said that the power of his priesthood came from the Eucharist. -Get inspired by the Eucharist! (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) The altar and the marketplace: Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee said in an interview in the magazi, The Critic: “If younger people are having an identity problem as Catholics, I tell them to do two things: Go to Mass every Sunday, and work in a soup kitchen. If one does those two things over a period of time, then something will happen to give one a truly Catholic identity. The altar and the marketplace – these two- must be related to each other; when they are, one works better, and one prays better.” Application: Is our celebration of the Eucharist completed by our loving deeds? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho.) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
23) “Neither is your best good enough for Almighty God.” There was once an old retired Methodist bishop who never missed an opportunity to say a word for his Lord. One day he was in the barbershop receiving a haircut from the young man who was his regular barber. There was enough conversation in the shop to allow him to speak with his barber privately, so he said, “Harry, how are you and the Lord getting along?” Rather curtly the young man replied, “Bishop, I do the best I can and that’s good enough for me.” The bishop said no more. When his haircut was finished, he got up and paid the barber. Then he said with a smile, “Harry, you work so hard that you deserve a break. Sit down, rest, and have a Coke. I’ll cut the next customer’s hair.” The barber smiled and said, “Bishop, I appreciate that,but I can’t let you do it.” “But why not?” asked the Bishop. “I promise to do my best.” “But,” said the barber, “I’m afraid that your best wouldn’t be good enough.” Then the bishop added the obvious, “And son, neither is your best good enough for Almighty God.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
The Big Triduum
Well tonight we start the BIG three, better known as the Triduum. We
wash feet, break bread, embrace our crosses and kick open the tomb again
to the possibilities of a new life, an eternal life with our God so
passionately in love with us. Here is a litany I found and will use on
Easter. A blessed Easter for all of you.
“Lord of Easter promise, I live in Faith of the Resurrection, but such is
the nature of my Faith, that so much of me remains entombed. Break open
the tomb. Please respond “Break open the tomb” to each of these prayers.
Where I have buried my compassion: Break open the tomb.
Where I have buried my sense of mercy: Break open the tomb.
Where I have buried my sense of humanity: Break open the tomb.
Where I have buried my love for my Heavenly Father: Break open the tomb.
Where I have buried my sense of joy: Break open the tomb.
Where I have buried my willingness to forgive: Break open the tomb.
Lord in you I have found a Savior no grave can withstand.
Help me roll away this stone and find the miracle of a new life,
That I may live more fully in your grace.”
Can I hear the Church say AMEN?
Be witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. Amen. (Fr. Stephen Humphrey
fwd by email@example.com) ) L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 23) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604