Thursday, April 05, 2007

This is the Night (Homily for Holy Thursday)

This week, the Jewish People celebrate Passover.

When they gather for the Passover meal,
it is traditional for the youngest son to ask,
“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

The first reading describes that night, long ago.
Celebrated in Egypt, that place of slavery,
on the night before they were delivered by the Lord God.

They took a lamb without blemish.
It was “slaughtered during the evening twilight.”
They applied some of its blood to the doorposts and lintel.

The blood marked the homes
of those who trusted in YHWH.
And the Lord God promised:
“Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.”

Tonight begins our Passover.
Why is this night unlike all other nights?
This is the night when Jesus—YHWH, our Deliverer—
gathered his Apostles, to celebrate the Passover.

Over the years, when God’s People marked the Passover,
they did it as a family; but it was often the case
that more than one family would gather to share the Passover.
That, too, is something we are doing tonight—
this is the first time St. Mary and St. Boniface Parishes
will gather together for this Holy Thursday Mass.

We are two parish families, yet one Family of God.
You’ll see, when the gifts are brought to the altar,
The oils that the Archbishop blessed, in Cincinnati,
on Tuesday, will also come forward—
and we will place the oils for St. Mary, here,
under the Blessed Mother;
We will place the oils for St. Boniface,
In front of the relic of St. Boniface, here by St. Joseph.
Two parishes—but one Family of God.

The event we recall tonight,
we often call “the Last Supper”—
But it really is the first—and the one and only.

On this night, Jesus, our Lord God,
revealed to his Apostles the New Passover.

Our Passover begins tonight,
but it won’t be complete tonight.
It continues over “Three Nights”—the SacredTriduum:
this night, the “evening twilight” tomorrow
when the Lamb was slain, and Saturday night,
which is really the beginning of Easter Sunday.

Three things are special about this night.
First, we have the washing of feet.
Everyone remembers this about Holy Thursday!
You see it done in different ways in different places.
But the Missal is very specific
in requiring it to be done this way.
And I want to explain why.

On that night, our Lord created his new priesthood,
in his Apostles.

Jesus is the one, true Priest.
He sanctifies his people through the one Sacrifice,
first on the Cross, and then perpetually, through the Mass.

This is the night when He gave a share
of his eternal priesthood to his Apostles.
Within only a few years, they called other men
to share that ministry.
That is when we began to have
deacons, priests and bishops—
the familiar ordained ministries we recognize.

This is the night when that began.
And that is key to the meaning of the washing of the feet.

He did this to show his Apostles how to be his priests.
It is a lesson we priests never get enough of!

There’s a second thing we do tonight.
We celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.
But we do that every day, every Sunday.
Yes—but this is the night when it began.
So, we do it with great solemnity.

As I told you; it was not “the Last Supper,”
But the First Supper—the first of many.

This night, throughout the world,
this Mass is celebrated everywhere.

Many celebrate it in full freedom,
and in beautiful churches, as we do here;
But many do so amidst violence—we think of Iraq;
Many do so in secret and in peril, as in Saudi Arabia;
And many do it in poverty—we think of so many places.
Many places, times, and people—but truly One.
Indeed, we are all one with that First Supper.

Christ who presided at that table then, presides here—
he is truly as present now as then!

Notice this cross here?
Our Lord is dressed like a priest.
It represents the mystical reality
of the Cross and the Mass—which are one!—
where he is both priest and the Lamb that is offered.

The Sacrifice begun at that First Supper,
was accomplished on that First Good Friday.
In one way, it was certainly complete:
Our Lord said, on the Cross, “It is finished!”

Yet, in another sense, it is not complete:
year upon year, our High Priest continues to plead
for each of his brothers and sisters.

The Blood poured out at Calvary
continues to be applied as our protection and deliverance.

This Eucharist, this Sacrifice will only be truly complete
when, at the time of his choosing, Christ returns at last,
and gathers all his Elect, living and dead,
into the Kingdom: a new heavens and a new earth!

Only then will the Priest say, “The Mass is ended!”
But for now, our Mass does not end.

So, the third, special feature of this night
is that tonight, we don’t end Mass in the usual way.
There is no end; I won’t say, “the Mass is ended”;
tomorrow’s liturgy for Good Friday
is a continuation of this night’s liturgy;
the Good Friday liturgy doesn’t end, either—
it continues with the Mass on the Vigil.

So, instead, after we all receive his Body and Blood,
we go in procession, accompanying the Lord to the chapel.

After you receive holy communion,
there are tables on either side, where you can get candles,
which we’ll carry in the procession.
Go ahead and light it as you pick it up,
Because it won’t be long after that
we’ll go in procession around to St. Clare Chapel.
And, I would ask that the ushers,
or whoever is close to the doors,
to open the center doors for the procession,
and then close the outer doors afterward.

We will go as the Apostles went to Gethsemane.
They didn’t know what was happening;
they waited in fear and doubt.

But we know!
We pray with the Lord, this night, with no fear or doubt.
We know what he did that Friday.
We feel the sorrow of the what our sins cost the Lord;
but we wait in hope, knowing what he did!
So, I invite you to join the procession from here,
around on Miami, to the chapel.
Of course, we won’t all fit in the chapel at once,
but as always, the chapel will remain open all night.

Why is this night different from all other nights?
This is the Night when our Redemption began.


John L. Wright said...

Great Homily, Boss!

Fr Martin Fox said...


(You know what's coming...)

What did you like about it?

Great music tonight...

Steve said...

Fr. Martin, I "stumbled" across your blog a couple of weeks ago. I am on temporary duty in Iraq (my unit is deployed to Kuwait) and the base that I am at is so small there is no Chaplain, not even a Chapel. I'll be heading home in a few weeks (but will still miss the Easter Vigil), but I wanted to thank you for the Homilies you post. Although not the same as attending Mass, they make a great substitute.

John L. Wright said...

"This is the night, when...." This was a great motif on which to build your homily, and its resonance will come to full fruition when you chant the Exultet at the Easter Vigil. The whole mass was beautiful.

A twenty-something person said to me, "His homily was long tonight, but I was hanging on every word!"

At this time of year, it get too easy for the choir to make itself busy, shuffling and getting ready for their next duty - you could have heard a pin drop in the choir loft during your homliy.

You were eleoquent not only with your words, but in your delivery, your demeanor. I was touched.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I don't know your rank, so I can't address you as respectfully as I'd like, but: thank you for your service to our country, and know that my two parishes, along with countless others, are praying over and over for you and your comrades.

We're praying for you to complete your mission successfully, and then come home. God bless you!