When we gathered for Christmas, it was so nice:
a crib, a baby; Mary and Joseph, animals, shepherds and the Magi.
Tonight, we gather with our Lord in the shadow of the Cross.
How I wish I could explain each detail of the Mass--but that would take too long.
Do you notice these steps? Why are they there?
Because when the priest goes to the altar, he goes up--
just as our Lord went up to Mount Calvary.
When the priest offers the Mass,
there are actually two miracles that occur.
Most of the time, we focus on how
the bread and wine are changed--
by Christ himself--into his own Body and Blood.
But the primary miracle is how the Mass takes us--
as if through a time-machine--
to the Last Supper, to the Cross, and to the Empty Tomb.
The first reading tells about the deliverance of God’s People
from slavery in Egypt: the first Passover.
God’s People gathered every year to recall those events,
with a meal that involved unleavened bread, wine,
and a lamb that had been sacrificed.
But it isn’t just a meal; it’s filled with Scripture and ritual.
It’s a lot like what we do at Mass.
In fact, the Sacrifice of the Mass is the New Passover.
The thing about the Passover:
it wasn’t just remembrance of things past.
It is about salvation past, present, and above all, future.
But what future?
In our Lord’s time, God’s People were no longer free.
How would the promise be fulfilled at last?
Let’s go back to the first Passover.
When Moses stood before Pharaoh, and said,
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Let my people go.”
Go for what?
If you look more closely at the Book of Exodus, it’s clear:
“Let my people go…that they may worship me.”
The purpose of the Exodus wasn’t primarily about getting land;
It wasn’t about better food or working conditions.
It wasn’t even primarily about freedom and justice
in the usual, political sense.
These things are important, but they are secondary.
The primary freedom, the primary justice,
is to know God and to be in relationship with him--
because, as the Second Vatican Council taught,
if man loses God, he loses himself.
We don’t know who we are.
So when, in our time, we close ourselves off from God;
we fool ourselves into thinking that,
with the marvels of technology,
we are now in control, and we don’t need God.
We can reinvent everything: how human life begins;
What it means to be human; What marriage is; What family is.
We do not care what the Creator
has written in nature and in ourselves.
We are the creators! We are god!
So have we, finally, delivered ourselves?
Have we made ourselves a Paradise--
so that we need no longer seek the one we left, long ago?
“Egypt” is that place where God’s People went seeking security,
they forgot themselves, and became slaves.
So it has always been through human history.
And it is out of Egypt,
out of the slavery of forgetting who we are,
that God delivers us.
Now we can understand the real meaning of the Gospel we heard.
Notice it doesn’t talk about the Eucharist,
but it shows the Lord washing the Apostles’ feet.
When Joshua led God’s People into the Land,
they “conquered” it:
they were to drive out everything
that would pollute their relationship with God.
That’s what we do in our lives, through confession,
penance, and forty days of Lent.
By the way--if anyone wants to go to confession,
I’ll be in the back after Mass tonight.
And I’ll be here at 11 am tomorrow and Saturday.
And I’ll hear confessions after Good Friday prayers
tomorrow as well.
Back to Joshua, leading us to the Promised Land.
Jesus is Joshua; yet notice how he “conquers”:
He kneels before Peter; he kneels before us.
Just as Peter had to say, “how can you, Lord, wash my feet?”
So he--and we--must ponder, “how can you, Lord, die for me?”
And the Promised Land--where is that?
It’s not a land, it’s not a place, it’s Christ himself!
The Eucharist is the Promise!
That’s why our communion isn’t just,
“accept Jesus into your heart.”
Jesus says, “Eat my Flesh! Drink my Blood!”
To receive the Eucharist is to accept the Cross.
Not just to look at it, but to place it on our shoulders.
That’s why receiving the Eucharist goes with turning from sin.
It’s all about the Cross.
Now we don’t have to go three days into the desert to find him.
We find him here. He enters us: Paradise comes here!
We become the sanctuary where God dwells forever!