HOLY THURSDAY

A little five years -old child and his mother were on their way to McDonald’s one evening, and on the way they passed a car accident. The mother and her son would usually say a prayer for whoever might be hurt whenever they passed by an accident or saw an ambulance. The mother pointed the accident out to her son and said we should say a prayer. So her son fervently offered his prayer; “dear God, please don’t let those cars block the entrance to McDonald’s”.

Dear friends! Eating is an important priority in most people’s lives. We don’t like anything to get in the way when we are ready to eat. For almost all of us, eating has become more than just a way to stay alive. It is often a way to celebrate, a way to enjoy good friends, a way to remember important occasions such as a birthday, an anniversary, a holy day or holiday. God made the eating of a special meal a way for the Jews to remember that he led them to freedom, made them his chosen people and expected them to live lives of holiness as his chosen people. Without special ways to remember, we can easily forget and so in our first reading we hear the story of how the Passover came about.

It was this celebration of remembrance of having been chosen by God as his special people that Jesus and his disciples were commemorating at the Last Supper. At the supper Jesus surprised his apostle by revealing a new way in which God was about to extend his saving love to all people. With bread he gave them to eat he said: “this is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And with a cup of wine he gave them to share he said: “this cup is new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” Our second reading, which describes this event, is a very important one because it is the earliest description of the Eucharist that we have, written 15 years before the first gospel was written.

This is one of the most difficult parts of our faith for many people today. In the scientific culture in which we live, we look for proof and evidence. We have attitude of “seeing is believing;” the gospels see things the other way: “believing is seeing.” Until we believe, we will not see this mystery. That’s basically what Jesus told Peter: “unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Before Jesus can fill us with his love, we must surrender ourselves to him in faith.

Today 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, to convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and to 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).

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 Holy 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.

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.

Jesus asks us today for our faith and he also asks for our love, our love for him and for one another. I have washed your feet; you ought to wash one another’s feet. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” He who came to serve and not to be served asks us to serve one another in love.

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