Homily given by Bishop Anthony Randazzo
Bishop of Broken Bay
Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, 01 April 2021
The commemoration of the Lord’s Supper is often referred to as a feast of love. Amongst the early Christians this love was known by the Greek word agapē [ἀγάπη].
In the New Testament, this word appears over 100 times. As the Christian community grew in wisdom and knowledge, the power of the Holy Spirit moving the minds and hearts of the faithful, revealing more deeply God’s fatherly love. As the community of the Church grew in faith and number, the faithful understood that their vocation was not merely to be loved by God, but to love God with their whole heart. Love of God with our whole heart is holiness.
It is most fitting, then, that we enter the holy Triduum by commemorating that night when the Lord Jesus, gathered his disciples in the Upper Room for the Passover meal.
While at table, Jesus showed how perfect his love was (John 13:1). What he was about to do shocked some, but it could not have surprised the Twelve. In his life and ministry Jesus invited his disciples time and time again to take to themselves his example of compassion, love, and service. His actions often challenged the status quo and his words often evoked strong feelings in his listeners, but his radical proclamation of the love of God was given for all – women, men, rich, poor, infirm, healthy, young, old – indeed for all of creation. No one, no living creature, was excluded from the liberating words of the Gospel. The Christian community would summarize the message simply as “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16).
There are two very clear moments in the Upper Room that reveal Jesus’ gift of love. The first is his self-abasement as he takes the form of a slave. By washing the feet of his disciples, he raises the dignity of the slave to one of equality with the master. It is a sign of the love that we must have for one another as disciples of the Lord.
While we all share different gifts and charisms, personalities and abilities, we all enjoy the dignity and equality that comes from being beloved children of God. Jesus’ act of service by washing the feet of his disciples restores lost dignity to humankind.
The second moment that reveals Jesus’ love is at table during the Passover meal. Jesus prefigured his ultimate act of love – the offering of himself as the sacrifice for our sins by his death on the Cross. Taking bread, he blessed God, and broke the bread (1Cor 11:23-24). Then taking the cup of wine, which is his blood poured out as the new covenant of love, (1Cor 11:25) Jesus initiates the day of atonement. The meal becomes the sacrifice, the body and blood of Christ an eternal offering to the Father for the remission of our sins, for the restoration of creation, and for our eternal life.
In the Eucharist, Jesus reveals that he and the Father are one because the Father desires our eternal salvation and Jesus redeems us by his blood. It is one great act of love, whereby God loves us and through Jesus Christ our Lord, we are restored to loving God. It is the ultimate agape, the perfect covenant of love.
My brothers and sisters through service and sacrifice, Christ is present to us in this sacred celebration. How will we announce this message of Good News to the world? How might we be messengers of the liberating love of God, made manifest in Christ Jesus, especially to those who once followed the Lord and now reject his love? How can we be heralds of the Good News so that those who long to be loved might experience the all-redeeming love of God? What must we do and who shall we be for those who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ?
These sacred days of the Triduum will reveal for us our very reason for following Jesus Christ as Catholic Christians. As we look upon the saving acts of God and meditate upon their meaning for us and for the world, might we also be moved to conversion and renewal in our lives and in the life of our community of the Church.
Tonight, let us remember the love of Christ. In this Holy Thursday Eucharist, may our discipleship be purified and strengthened, and may we be one with Jesus in His sacrifice on the Cross.
May the Bread of Life make us strong, and may we be washed clean in the precious Blood of Christ. Amen