As you know, the homilies during Lent
have taken us step by step through the Mass.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that we have only gotten
to the center of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer.
That was by design; because Lent and the Mass have this in common:
they are about leading us to – and preparing us for – the Cross.
Now that Holy Week begins,
we come to what is both the heart of the Mass
and the heart of our Faith.
We just recalled how Jesus approaches Jerusalem.
In a moment, the priest – me, in this case – approaches the altar.
The purpose is the same: to carry out the sacrifice
that saves the world from sin.
What happened once in Jerusalem,
happens now on our altar, in our presence.
If you possibly can, please plan to come to Holy Thursday Mass.
That is when Jesus began his Sacrifice –
the first, the true Mass, if you will.
He completes his sacrifice on the Cross, and of course,
that is what we relive on Good Friday.
Easter – beginning with the Vigil Mass late on Saturday evening –
marks the victory of Christ over sin and death.
He has died; he has sought out the faithful souls who had gone before,
and he takes them to heaven.
He rises from the dead, and his victory is complete.
This is all part of the Mass, too. We’ll talk about that next week.
At the center of the Mass, as we know, is the Eucharistic Prayer,
the prayer of Sacrifice.
The roots of this prayer are the Last Supper, the Cross,
and the first gathering of believers on the Sunday of Resurrection,
the first Easter.
In a few minutes, we will lift up our hearts to the Lord.
We will sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts” –
the words Isaiah heard when had a vision of God in the temple.
The prayer of the priest, after that,
addresses God as if we are standing right before his throne, in heaven.
Because, in a true sense, that’s where we are.
Notice: every single word of this prayer is addressed to God.
Even when the priest quotes the words of Jesus, at the Last Supper,
the priest is quoting them to the Father.
When the priest is praying the Eucharistic Prayer,
there is a silence, an intimacy.
There is a sense in which the priest is very alone,
alone with the Father.
It is like Calvary, when Christ’s gaze
is almost constantly fixed on his Father, until he gives up his last.
This week, Holy Week, makes all this especially intense and real.
That’s why this is a perfect time to focus intently
on the heart of the Mass, which is the heart of our Faith.