Deacon Cornellís Homily

Readings: ††

Exodus 12:1-8,11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15


March 29, 2018, Holy Thursday

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world. Grant us peace.

Did you ever really think about how that metaphor of Christ as the Paschal Lamb helps understand how the Paschal Mystery brings us salvation? Those of us blessed to live out here on the outskirts of the Archdiocese have the opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of all these sheep and lamb metphors used in scripture because we can go and see actual sheep and working shepherds, like at Warren sheep farm at Pilot Grove in Stow. Shepherds will tell you that it is not unusual during the birthing season to have a lamb be born stillborn or to die very soon after birth, and at the same time, have another mother sheep die while giving birth to a lamb that survives. Now it would seem like the simple solution would be to take the orphan lamb and give it to the mother sheep that lost her lamb for her to nurture. But a sheep will not take care of a lamb that is not her own. So what the shepherds have learned to do is to take the blood from the dead lamb and use it to wash the orphan lamb. Then the mother lamb smells her own, and takes the lamb and cares for it. The shepherds call this the blood of adoption.

Tonight we celebrate the Mass of the Lordís Supper. It is easy to think of this, then, as recalling the Last Supper, as if we were admiring DaVinciís painting. But the Triduum is not a pageant to watch from the sidelines, but a celebration that is meant to draw us all into participate. When we listen to the various accounts of the last supper, as related this year in the passion according to Mark last Sunday, and tomorrow night, of John, we realize that this was anything but the calm idyllic picture DaVinci painted. There was the confusion of the disciples in general about what was going on; there was the perplexing statement Jesus made about leaving them and going back to the Father; there was the tension surrounding the betrayal by Judas. In the midst of all this, Jesus is trying to convey one last time what his whole life has been about. He is trying to leave them with even the smallest understanding of what it means to repent and believe that the kingdom of God is at hand.†

So before he tries to sooth their fears, or to explain that he is the vine and they are the branches, or to warn them that the world will hate them because of their connection to Jesus, or to tell them that he is sending an another advocate, or even before he makes that beautiful prayer for their protection and unity, he acts. He takes off his outer garment, and wraps a towel around his waist and gets down on his knees and washes their feet. As Father Walter reminded us in his homily last weekend at St. Isidore, it is important that we remember that Jesus washes the feet of all twelve, including Judas. Only after he has given us an example of how we are to follow him, does Jesus announce that Judas will betray him.

So tonight we remember that last supper, the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the sacramental priesthood, the model for the sacramental diaconate, and the mandate to love one another by serving one another. But this is not a remembering that is just a recalling of what has happened in the past. The Greek word that we heard translated as remembrance in Paulís letter to the Corinthians has strong implications of creative movement in it. I like the think of this kind of remembering as the opposite of dismembering. We are adding our members to the body of Christ. As we listen to Paulís letter, we hear the play on the words ďhand overĒ. Our word tradition comes from the same root. We are celebrating the Eucharist as part of our handing over what we have been given. But if we are to hand over what Jesus commands us, then we must participate in it. Only those who have become the body and blood of Christ can truly hand this over to the next generation. Eucharist is one of the sacraments of initiation. We continually gather to celebrate this Eucharist because we are always in the process of becoming more fully the body and blood of Christ.

Let us be drawn into this ongoing act of Christís paschal mystery. By participating in the washing of the feet, we indicate that, as Peter before us, we put away our feelings of false humility and let Christ serve us as he came to serve all. And then as we come forward to the table of the Eucharist and partake of the body and blood of Christ, let us see that this body is broken and this blood poured out for the whole world. In this Eucharist we become more fully the Blood of Christ. When we leave the celebration tonight or at the end of the Triduum or any time we celebrate Eucharist, we go into the world to wash those we meet with this blood of adoption. And then smelling our own, we take them in and care for them.