Homily given by Bishop Anthony Randazzo
Bishop of Broken Bay
Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral
Thursday of the Lord’s Supper 9 April 2020
On the night before he was crucified, Jesus gathered his disciples for a final meal together. However, before they reclined in table fellowship, the Divine Master once more took the form of a slave. Taking water and a towel, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. (John 13:4-5)
Imagine for a moment, the utter surprise of the Twelve, as their teacher stooped low like a common household servant. This service rendered by Jesus forms part of the DNA of every Christian disciple. In a particular way, it is the foundation of Christian leadership – especially for those of us who have been ordained for service and leadership in the Church.
One of the unhappy consequences of the pandemic that plagues us at this time, is that the liturgical ritual of the washing of feet, particular to Maundy Thursday, is to be omitted this year. While it is only a symbol of Christ’s service to the Twelve, it is a sign for us that Jesus’ action must find a place in the lives of His priests – who are anointed for the service of God’s holy people.
The priestly service, to which I refer, begins with the gift of humility. It is not easy to kneel before others and serve, unless one understands that what is done is for the good of the one being served. This kind of service is more than any sign or symbol can convey. It is, most importantly, service given in charity and love. One of our ancient Christian hymns sums this up beautifully. Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est. Where charity is true, God is there.
Our Christian faith reminds us that Jesus Christ is the living presence of God in our midst. It is in Him that we are one. That, after all, is what Christianity is all about – union with God and union with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jesus knew that signs and symbols could only sustain and carry us so far. Therefore, rising from washing the feet of his disciples, he went back to the table. (John 13:12) Saint Paul reminds us that what then occurred, was more than any mere sign or symbol. (1 Cor 11:23-26) While Jesus was at table, having given thanks, he took bread and wine, and gave us His Body and Blood.
In the Eucharist this evening, which would normally follow the washing of feet, we will do what Christ did at the Last Supper. We will take some bread and wine and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ will be present to us at this altar.
I am very conscious that at this time, thousands of women and men are hungering for this Eucharist. For the first time in 100 years in this country, we are unable to gather physically to celebrate the Mass. That means that your communion in the Eucharist is a spiritual communion.
This is a painful time in our lives, and yet, we must remember that every time the Eucharist is celebrated, every member of the Body of Christ is present – in heaven and on earth. Our communion is in Christ. That means that every intention, every need, every thanksgiving, is being held before Almighty God on the altar of sacrifice.
As Jesus told the Twelve to do this in remembrance of him, so does he command us. His action at table foreshadows his sacrifice on Calvary. It is the supreme act of love, to lay down his life for his friends. (cf. John 15:13)
Each time we remember Jesus in the holy Eucharist, we are drawn more deeply into his life, death, and resurrection. Each time we remember him, we are reminded to take up our cross and follow him. (cf. Matt 16:24) In the Eucharist, Jesus gives himself to us as our food for life’s pilgrimage and for the forgiveness of our sins.
The holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life (cf. lumen gentium 11). For in it is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Paschal lamb. (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis 5)
Let us now prepare to follow the way of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 11:26) toward the heavenly banquet, when all God’s people will be seated at the table of the kingdom (cf. CCC 1344).