Mass of the Lord’s Supper; Holy Thursday 2014

Homily, Bishop Paul D. Etienne


Who does not long to see Jesus face-to-face?  Who does not yearn for the reassurance of Christ’s love?  He comes!  Let us receive Him in the manner He chooses.


In this Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus reveals the enduring reality of the Church as He gives Himself to His apostles under the form of bread and wine.  Jesus points once again to the way of God’s love.  He who “had come from God and was returning to God” took off his outer garments and wrapped the towel of humble priestly service about His waist.  As He washes the feet of His apostles and tells them; “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”


And thus begins the perpetual gift of Christ, a gift that will reach its completion on the cross, buried briefly in a tomb and be lifted up for all to see in all of its brilliance on Easter Sunday; a Gift we know today as the Church; as Eucharist, as Priesthood; in short, as Love.


We enter tonight the Paschal Mystery of Christ.  The One Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity, Who lowered Himself as Son of God to become Son of Man, Who walked among us, Who preached the Good News, Who renewed and restored life to the sick and lost, Who gave hope to the desperate, Who forgave sinners, enters tonight into His Passion, which is the very Passion of the Heart of God, Whose Heart is overturned with mercy towards us.

Do you want to see the Christ face to face?  Then enter with a heart of love into the Mystery opening before us this Holy Night.  He comes!  Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.


Eucharistic Procession

Eucharistic Procession

The Eucharist that perhaps has become a routine experience is revealed again tonight in its Original Beauty – a Communion of Love between Christ and His beloved friends.  The Eucharist that at times is impoverished by our inattentiveness is revealed again tonight for its Truth and Beauty, as the very Body and Blood of Christ; the Gift of Divine love and life in its fullness.  The Eucharist which some have left behind as something old and boring we celebrate with joy and gratitude tonight as the ‘sacrifice new for all eternity, the banquet of Christ’s love.’  (Collect, Mass of the Lord’s Supper)


As the Apostles gazed upon the face of Jesus during the Last Supper, so do all believers who gather around the table of the Lord.  As the beloved disciple leaned upon the breast of Jesus during the Last Supper, so do we who adore Him in the Eucharist, who eat His Body and Drink His Blood.  We do not come tonight to drink and still thirst, nor to eat and not be filled.  We do not labor for food that perishes.  Rather, we come to partake in the Food that endures for eternal life.  (cf John 6:27)


As Christ changed water to wine, (John 2:1-11) so Christ comes to us under the signs of wine and bread that become His Body and Blood.  May our faith in this marvelous exchange be renewed tonight, and may the eyes of the doubting be opened to believe and receive Christ in His precious Gift.


Do you want to see Christ face to face?  Then adore Christ in the Eucharist.  Discover Christ in the Blessing Cup of Communion that is the Blood of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 10:16)  He comes!  Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.


The Priesthood which has been soiled through human weakness is still the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.  The priesthood that at times is diminished with too much emphasis on privilege rather than humility, worldly trappings rather than simplicity, power rather than service, control instead of collaboration is called tonight to return to Christ Who is our Head, our Master, our Model and Friend.


The priesthood that is at time isolated in parish rectories and offices is called tonight to walk with God’s people to accompany them in their darkness and lead them into the Light of the Church, the Light of the Gospel, the Light of Jesus Christ. Priests are reminded tonight that Christ Who became poor for our sake likes to whittle us down to nothing in order that He can be our Everything. The priests who leave everything behind to follow Christ are reminded again tonight that as they give their all to love those entrusted to them, He always returns love for love.


Do you want to see Christ face to face?  Then look into the eyes of your priest.  Love your priests.  These are the mysterious, loving ways of our God.  He comes!  Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.


Finally, the Church. Christ washes the feet of His apostles tonight, and with this gesture he gives us not only the model for priesthood, but the model of life for all who will come to believe in Him and follow Him.  As Christ approached Peter to wash his feet, Peter at first protests: “You will never wash my feet.”  Jesus answers: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”  This inheritance is not just of apostolic ministry, but the inheritance of eternal life and the new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you.” To be washed by Christ is to be bathed in His blood and renewed in the waters of baptism.  And thus Jesus tells Peter tonight: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over;”


Tonight, as we join the apostles in the upper room, as we have our feet washed by Jesus and partake of the new and eternal banquet of the unblemished lamb slain for our salvation, as we walk with Christ across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, while we stand by and watch him betrayed and arrested and tomorrow stand at the foot of the cross, we come to the headwaters of the Church.


The Church is the Body of Christ, nourished by His Body and Blood and called to service as we model Him “Who loved His own in the world, and loved them to the end.”  Yes, each of us are called to the same loving service of Christ, called to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, called to love as Christ, Who loves without measure.  And when we learn to go out of ourselves and love with all the love of Christ, then we will see Christ face to face in those who need us most.


Do you want to see Christ face to face?  Then love another, love one who cannot or does not love you in return and you will see the face of Christ and know the love of Christ in return.  He comes!  Let us receive and welcome Him as He chooses.