Holy Thursday 2015 - The Stole and The Towel

Tony Kayala, c.s.c. 

1. Jesus was humiliated in the very heart of his own teaching by his own disciples when they were fighting for position. This is the last night. He was teaching them with his life example and stories for three years. They have to become the Church and continue his mission. So he does three things as a response: a. he exchanges the symbol of position with a symbol of service (stole with towel), b. they want to “take” and he says “Take this and eat” and he “gives”; c. finally he prays to the Father to keep them together in unity. These are the 3 symbols we used as we began the Lent on Ash Wednesday: a. fasting is what we do to ourselves (humility-washing – vis-à-vis love yourself), b. almsgiving is what we do for others (love your neighbour) and finally c. prayer is what we do with God (love God). These are the foundations of our faith – the two commandments lived, explained, understood differently. 
2. Meals (food and drink) are so part and parcel of the life and ministry of Jesus because they are so integral to every human being and every community and family. As much as we would like to say that we are not here to live to eat we also like to include those whose struggle is to feed their families or put bread or rice on their tables. Jesus does not forget to include it in the “Our Father”. So, we should not only concentrate on the Eucharist, priesthood and service, but also family meals, outings, picnics where families are joined together and blessed with care, companionship through the great moments of family meals. Buzz Aldrin made sure that the first meal ever consumed on the surface of the moon was the communion elements (see story below). 

3. Why did Jesus choose a meal to keep a memorial for himself? Because I guess we will never forget to eat. Gathering together over meals brings joy, fellowship, life. But it takes sacrifice, concern thoughtfulness to create a good meal. Nothing else becomes so part of us - biologically - as food. And it gives energy. In Samaria, it’s water, in Cana, it’s wine, in the outskirts, it’s bread and fish sandwiches of a boy, it’s fish again by the seashore for Peter, it’s the crumps for the Canaanite woman and Lazarus and it was bread on the Emmaus journey. Participation and thanks by meals meant attention by Martha, Peter’s mother-in-law serving a dinner, Simon’s house, “give them something to eat”. Participation meant also how you are dressed and welcomed: guests at the wedding feast, in Simon’s house, rich people inviting their friends, go to the by lanes, …..inclusion….. 


The Meeting

Years ago a Chicago restaurant had specially printed place mats at all its tables.

The mats were designed exclusively for the restaurant. And if you asked the waitress, she’d give you one to take home, frame, and hang on your wall.

Let me share with you the wording that appeared on those mats. It went something like this:

"In 1923 an important meeting took place at Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel. Attending the meeting were the following men:

"The president of the largest steel company, the president of the largest utility company, the president of the largest gas company,

The president of the New York Stock Exchange, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, the greatest wheat speculator, the greatest bear on Wall Street, the head of the world's greatest monopoly, a member of President Harding's cabinet."

That's a pretty impressive line-up of people. Yet, 25 years later, where were those nine industrial giants?

According to the story on the place mat, the president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died a bankrupt;

The president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died penniless;

The president of the largest gas company, Howard Hobson, had gone insane;

The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was just released from prison; the bank president, Leon Fraser, died a suicide; the wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died penniless;

The Wall Street bear, Jesse Livermore, died a suicide; the head of the world's greatest monopoly, Ivar Kruegar, died a suicide; the member of President Harding's cabinet, Albert Fall, was

Practical Application: Self-service is no service. We are programmed to look only to our own needs; we find it hard to include the needs of others. We are made to be served and waited upon; we find it difficult to serve and wait upon others. We are constituted to promote our personal ad­vantage; we find it distasteful to promote the advantage of others. Yet the whole thrust of Holy Thursday is that to be Christian means to serve others. Self-service is no service.

Paul's community at Corinth was a divided community. At the church suppers which preceded the Eucharist, individuals provided only for themselves to the point where some became intoxicated and others went hungry. For Paul, this community could not proclaim the death of the Lord. They did not act out in daily living the dying of Jesus for others. To celebrate Eucharist meant to embark upon a way of living in which one met the needs of others. For Paul, self-service is no service.

The Johannine community believed in a theology of reaching out to the members of the community. The foot washing became, therefore, a symbolic action which had to be reproduced in the lives of the community. In John, the authentic follower of Jesus is one who will not eschew washing the feet of the other members. To hail Jesus as Lord and Master meant to make oneself servant and slave of all. Humble service became the Christian hallmark. In John, self-service is no service.

Husbands and wives who constantly look to each other's needs show their Christian way. Children who consistently seek to provide for the needs of the family reveal Christian values. Leaders who regularly spend their time and energies in promoting the good of their people give evidence of Christianity. The gifted, both married and single, who habitually donate their skills and talents to aid the less gifted demonstrate the follow­ing of Jesus. All those who look beyond themselves to meet the problems and needs of others live out the theology of Holy Thursday. In Chris­tianity, concern for just oneself is inadequate. Self-service is no service.

Eucharist reflects a Lord and Master who makes himself servant and slave. Eucharist takes the death-style of Jesus and offers it as the life-style of the community. Eucharist compels the community to act as a com­munity by meeting common needs. To eat and drink with Jesus means to rise and offer oneself as food and drink to others. Eucharist thereby announces that self-service is no service.

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil: 

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.” 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."  On the other hand, 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 to be celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egypt and their exodus from slavery to the Promised Land. 

Scripture lessons:  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 was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. By it, 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 Pascal 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 spirit of humble service of Christ Whom we carry with us. 

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 the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 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."  On the other hand, 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 to be celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egypt and their exodus from slavery to the Promised Land.   

The Jewish Passover was a seven-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 from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover. God gives 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.  In the second reading, Paul quotes another source for this tradition that was handed to him upon his conversion.  He says he received this "from the Lord,” suggesting that the celebration of the Lord's Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. Paul implies that the 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.  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; 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, He gave His Apostles His own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as food and drink, 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.

Exegesis:
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. 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, proving 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 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.” 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).  He served as both the Host and the Victim of the Sacrifice.  He became the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist had previously predicted (John 1:29, 36), Who takes 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 consisted of 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 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 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 serve humbly.  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, even when they don't deserve our love. It is to do good to them, even if 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 if they don't say, "I'm sorry." It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know that 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.

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.” 

3) We need to show our unity in suffering. The bread we consecrate and partake of is produced by the pounding of many grains of wheat, and the wine we consecrate and 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 Jesus worthily, rather than making our reception 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." And that is why the priest, just before he receives 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.  

6) We need to remember what Jesus did for us on Holy Thursday and does for us during every Eucharistic celebration: We remember and we regret that Jesus had to go through all that He did just because of the way our lives are wrapped in sin today and every day. We remember and we rejoice that Jesus’ love for us knows no limits. We remember and we believe that Jesus has taken care of everything that stands between us and God. We remember and we rely on Jesus our living Lord Who has been through all the troubles and trials that one person can have. Hence, He is able to sympathize and help us in our times of trouble and give the best possible answers to our prayers. We remember and we know for certain that the One Who died on the cross will never leave us or desert us – we may desert Him but He will never leave us. We remember and we celebrate the new hope that we have because Jesus is alive. He is our living Lord and Savior Who supports us when we are down, strengthens us when we face difficult challenges, forgives us when we fail and comforts us when sickness and death terrify us. We remember and we are changed – What Jesus has done in giving us a new life and a new beginning through His death and Resurrection changes the way we view other people, our world and our relationship with God and, with God's help, we fill our lives with kindness, patience, tolerance and forgiveness. We remember and we anticipate that day when we will gather around the throne of God with all the saints who have gone before us.  

ILLUSTRATIONS:

1 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.  

2 “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.  He told a story to distinguish between Buddha and Christ. When Buddha was on his death bed, 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 in the form 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. 

3: 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 (Fr. Jack Dorsel). 

4: Holy Communion on the moon:

On July 20, 1969, the space rocket Apollo 11 became the first manned vehicle to land on the surface of the moon carrying the astronauts Neil Armstrong (commander), Michael Collins (pilot of the command module) and Edwin Aldrin (commander of the lunar module). It was an event that inspired awe all around the world. After landing on the moon, Aldrin radioed earth with these words: "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." Then, when he journeyed out of the space module onto the moon's surface, he did something quite significant. He took out a small home Communion kit and became the first person to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion on the surface of the moon. This is to say that the event we celebrate this night is the only religious rite in all the world that has been celebrated on the surface of the moon. Here's an interesting sidebar. Aldrin kept his intent to celebrate Holy Communion on the moon a secret, even from his fellow astronauts. Why? Because earlier someone had filed a lawsuit regarding the reading of Genesis 1 by the astronauts on Apollo 8 as they circled the earth on Christmas Eve a few years earlier. (Chaikin, Andrew. A Man On The Moon. Cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_Aldrin ) It is nice to know, isn't it, that the Eucharist has been received by a man on the moon. It's much more critical to know that we have this rite to celebrate because God came down to earth. This is a rite initiated by the Master himself. Understanding that is particularly significant when we read John's portrayal of that First Holy Communion, which we know as the Last Supper.

5: "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 where 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.  

6:  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).] 

7: 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 cup we are remembering, and we are proclaiming that we are waiting for our Lord to return. (Jerry Fritz, http://leiningers.com/waiting.html).

8: "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 that fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a young 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 to 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."  

9:  “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." 

10: 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 and unable to make 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). 

11: “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. 

12: “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. 

13: “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. Originally developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad, the $5,000 battery-less Sky-Eye chip sold by Gen-Etics 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.

14: "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." (RSV) 

15: "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.  

16: 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 blood lines; 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.

17: 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.” 

18: 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’ (Fr. Botelho)

16) Pope missing: A story from the life of Pope 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'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. So 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).

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From the Connections: 

THE WORD:

The centerpiece of John’s Gospel account of the Last Supper is the mandatum -- from the Latin word for “commandment,” from which comes the traditional title for this evening, Maundy Thursday.  At the Passover seder, the night before he died, Jesus established a new Passover to celebrate God's covenant with the new Israel.  The special character of this second covenant is the mandatum of the washing of the feet -- to love one another as we have been loved by Christ.

(John makes no mention of the establishment of the Eucharist in his account of the Last Supper.  Chapters 14, 15 and 16 recount Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples, followed by his “high priestly prayer” in chapter 17.  The Johannine 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.)

Tonight’s first reading recounts the origin and ritual of the feast of Passover, the Jewish celebration of God's breaking the chains of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt and leading them to their own land, establishing a covenant with them and making of them his own beloved people.

The deep divisions in the Corinthian community have led to abuses and misunderstandings concerning the “breaking of the bread.”  In addressing these problems and articulating the proper spirit in which to approach the Lord’s Supper, Paul provides us with the earliest written account of the institution of the Eucharist, the Passover of the new covenant (this evening's second reading).  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. 

HOMILY POINTS:

The Eucharist, instituted this night, comes at a price all must be willing to pay:  We must become what we have received – we must become, for others, Christ the healer, Christ the compassionate and selfless brother, Christ the humble “washer of feet.”

Jesus, who revealed the wonders of God in stories about mustard seeds, fishing nets and ungrateful children, on this last night of his life -- as we know life -- leaves his small band of disciples his most beautiful parable:  As I have washed your feet like a slave, so you must wash the feet of each other and serve one another.  As I have loved you without limit or condition, so you must love one another without limit or condition.  As I am about to suffer and die for you, so you must suffer and, if necessary, die for one another.  Tonight’s parable is so simple, but its lesson is so central to what being a real disciple of Christ is all about.  When inspired by the love of Christ, the smallest act of service done for another takes on extraordinary dimensions.   
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From Fr. Jude Botelho: 

The Book of Exodus tells us how the Lord ordered the Israelites to keep the Paschal meal. Each family had to kill a lamb and smear the doorposts with the blood of the lamb. The lamb should be roasted and eaten standing to signify their readiness to pass from the land of slavery to the land of promise. It would also signify the passing of the angel of the Lord over the houses of the Israelites marked by the blood of the lamb. To remember this Passover, God ordered the Israelites to keep the Feast of the Passover. The lamb sacrificed was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and the father of the family would explain to the children, year after year, what the meal and the feast meant. Our Eucharistic celebration is a commemoration of the same Paschal meal, reminding us that we are called to pass from the land of slavery to sin to the land of freedom; we are called to pass over from wherever we are to where the Lord wants us to be. It calls to mind the fact that God has passed over our sins thanks to the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ through whose death we are given life. 

Depiction of the Eucharist

 An old Church in Cologne had a telling illustration of the Bread of life on the door of the church. The door had four panels, each portraying a biblical scene relating to the Eucharist. The first panel had six stone jars, depicting the miracle of Cana; the second showed five loaves and two fishes, referring to the feeding of the five thousand; the third panel portrayed Jesus and the twelve seated at the table in the Upper Room; and the last panel had three figures -Jesus breaking bread with two of his disciples in the Inn at Emmaus. The common interpretation of the first miracle depicted is that the Lord came to the rescue of the young couple who were embarrassed having run out of wine. The artist's message was that just as Jesus had turned the water into wine so one day he would change wine into his blood, thus prefiguring the Eucharist. The second panel shows the feeding of the five thousand. In Capernaum he gave ordinary bread; at the Last Supper he would give the bread of Life. The third panel reveals the institution of the Eucharist. In the Upper Room Jesus does more than change water into wine, he changes wine into his blood. He does more than multiply loaves; he changes bread into his body. In the last panel we see in the meal at Emmaus the first post-resurrection Eucharist. First in the scriptures and then in the breaking of bread they learn to recognize the Lord in their midst and their hearts are warmed at his presence. The four panels thus progressively reveal the true meaning of the Eucharist.

Mark Link

 John, who wrote his gospel more than fifty years after the last supper had taken place, does not narrate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, since Matthew, Mark and Luke had already done it. But John wanted to remind the Christians of what Jesus had done on the night of the Last Supper. The central point of his teaching that night was his new commandment. To drive home this message he tells us how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper. No other Gospel narrates this event. John was well aware that the Eucharist was the greatest gift of the Lord to the Church. Yet he preferred to describe a ritual that Jesus performed that night, which would highlight the true meaning of "Do this in memory of me!" The celebration of the Eucharist becomes relevant and meaningful only when we have washed one another's feet. After years of participating in the Eucharist, have we understood what the Lord is asking of us? Unfortunately, we have made the Eucharist a ritual to be observed but with no bearing on our daily lives. We can participate in the Eucharist daily and yet not let it affect our lives in any way. Similarly we can on this day participate in the ritual of the washing of the feet and yet not see the implications of this new commandment. To celebrate the Eucharist we have to live it. To live as a follower of Jesus Christ we have to wash one another's feet, we have to be servants; we have to live lives of humble service. 

Body of Christ!

 Once I was giving out Holy Communion in a crowded church. Just as I was about to place the host on a lady's tongue, another person jostled her by wedging into a narrow space besides her. She immediately closed her mouth before receiving, turned to the intruder and called her a bitch, then turned back to me, opened her mouth and said "Amen" to the body of Christ! So often we receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist and fail to recognize it in the pew. So often the tongue that receives the Lord in Holy Communion is only too ready to lacerate the body of Christ over a cup of coffee after Mass.

James Feeban

Film: 'Entertaining Angels': The Dorothy Day Story

 Twenty-year-old Dorothy Day was a reporter and a part of an elite socialist group in New York. Dorothy encounters a homeless man and a friendly nun and follows them to a Church that has opened a soup kitchen for the poor. She often goes to the kitchen to help. She begins to read Catholic books and gets converted. She is urged to start feeding the poor and caring for the sick. During the 1930's Dorothy becomes even more socially active. She opens hospitality houses and tries to improve the lives of the poor. -Dorothy led a very unconventional life by Catholic standards. Her pre-conversion past and abortion, her decision not to marry and 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!' 

The Ultimate Acceptance

 An orthodox Jewish father came to my university office to discuss a serious problem. His son was becoming romantically involved with a young Catholic woman. The old patriarch was well-disposed to Christianity, very tolerant of its beliefs and practices. But it was 'crossing the line' to think of his son marrying a gentile outside the synagogue and perhaps even becoming a Catholic. He was disappointed in the young woman because of the present turn of events. He had readily accepted her as his son's friend but felt that she should have been more sensitive to the limits of the relationship, to its future implications, especially since he and his wife had so graciously received her into their home and family circle. As he concluded, he made a statement that wonderfully summarized a whole set of Old Testament feelings. He leaned over the desk and said dramatically: "And we even invited her to our table." What more could he have done? That said it all. His hospitality was complete. In the best of his Jewish tradition, he had included her as fully as he could. -On Holy Thursday, Jesus invites us all to His table. To invite us to his banquet table was the ultimate way that the Jewish carpenter could tell us that he accepted us, no matter how weak and sinful we may be. Jesus invited everyone to dinner to share in all of those rich human experiences which, at that moment, became divine experiences.

Eugene Lauer in 'Sunday Morning Insights' 

Remembering

 A man made a dramatic turnaround in his life. When asked how he did it, he pulled out a snapshot from his wallet. It was a picture of a caseworker who had helped him years ago. "Whenever I am tempted to fall back into my old ways," the man said, "I remember what this caseworker did for me, and I draw strength from his memory." That story illustrates an important biblical truth. For ancient Jews remembering a religious event meant far more than calling to mind something that had happened centuries before. On the contrary, remembering the event meant bringing it into the present and reliving it by faith. Thus when the Jews remembered the Passover each year, they did far more than recall to mind the event that freed their ancestors from Egypt. Rather, by remembering, they brought that event into the present and relived it again. In this way they received the same blessing from it that their ancestors did.

Mark Link in 'Journey'

 Eucharistic Meal

 In most cultures a meal is a special ceremony, time and occasion. We divide our day by mealtimes. A meal implies being together as a family -perhaps the only time of the day. It implies being one. Divorce is called "separation of bed and board." Tearing up a table cloth is a sign of disunity in a family. Soldiers unstrap their bayonet belt before entering a mess hall -no fighting in a dining room. At the dining table enemies, especially chiefs of clans, seal their agreements by eating one another's food. All eating is meant to be sharing. You cannot have a feast without a meal. Every big occasion has one farewell as well as welcome. When a businessman wants to discuss something important, or a friend wants to tell you something unpleasant, or a man has a special message for a woman -they get together over a meal. All this is implied in the Eucharist.

Fred Michalic in '1000 stories you can use'

 The Tragedy and Triumph

 An old African folk tale speaks of a land which was suffering from a famine. Men and beasts starved to death. Everyone was worried just about staying alive. In this country lived a pelican which did not worry about keeping herself alive as much as preserving the life of her young ones. Day after day she scrounged for food. Finally there was no food she could find, the pelican could find no other way out, so in her great need she made a hole in her own breast with her beak and gave her young ones her own blood to drink. When the famine was over her young ones were strong and able to fly away and look after themselves. She had given them her lifeblood to make them live.

Willi Hoffsuemmer in '1000 stories you can use' 

Live for others

 In the Russian Orthodox Church, there were people called Poustinikki who devoted themselves to lives of prayer. They withdrew to the desert (poustinia) and lived in solitude, but not isolation. The Russian word for solitude means "being with everybody." By custom, the latch was always off the door as a sign of availability. The poustinikki's priority was always a neighbour's need. We too are to live with the latch off the door to our hearts for the service of others.

John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'
 
To live with others, may we live for others!