Thursday, March 28, 2013

Paying Attention

We begin the Easter Triduum this evening with this Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The Triduum refers to the three days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday through the Easter Vigil – that are liturgically celebrated as one day. It is helpful, then, for us to view these three liturgies as one and see a focus in what they are calling us toward. This year, I want to focus on their call to discipleship.

And in discipleship, there is a cost.

Tonight, as we commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper and His gift of the Priesthood and the Eucharist, we learn of the central role of service in our walk of faith. This is no mere “doing-good-stuff”; rather, these are examples that are meant to be “handed on.

 Our First Reading recalls the Passover, where God spared the Israelites and led them to freedom from slavery. They are meant to remember this – as our Jewish sisters and brothers are doing now – and to pass on this memory to future generations.

Saint Paul, in the Second Reading, “hands on” the mystery of the Eucharist, which he himself had received from others. This new Covenant in Christ’s Blood frees us from sin, and every time we celebrate it we proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus gives us an “example to follow,” that what He does we also do.

These days stand at the root of Christianity and are reminders to us. What we believe and celebrate are not personal or private possessions, but are meant to be shared. Therefore, Jesus gives us visible signs as ways of passing on His example to others.

Only witness is credible. Jesus knows this; the great saints knew this. Therefore, service must be visible as an example and not as a “show.”

In our celebration this evening, we receive two great gifts from Jesus: the Priesthood and the Eucharist. However, John the Evangelist doesn’t really show us either in the gospel we just heard! Rather, we see Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

The message is clear: discipleship demands service. It is outward love and care for others. John sets the stage as he writes, “He loved them to the end."

As Christians, we cannot be passive observers of the mysteries we celebrate. Otherwise, we cannot be true disciples. Our celebration of the mysteries of this Triduum – the gifts of the Priesthood and Eucharist, the sacrifice of Calvary, Christ’s descent among the dead, and His Resurrection – demands that we then act of what we see and hear.

In a few moments, I, your pastor, your shepherd, will kneel and wash the feet of some of our fellow parishioners. This is supposed to be an act of humility and love – and it is. However, it is done again as a reminder of what Jesus does for us: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you also should do.”

It is our privilege to gather this evening and remember that night. It is our privilege to share in the Eucharist that Jesus offers us, in commemoration of His saving sacrifice for us. We are that Body of Christ, formed by the Body of Christ; and we are sent forth to put into action the gifts we celebrate now – because we are disciples.

As disciples, our focus must be on Jesus – watching what He does, remembering His example, and then doing what He did.

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