The Sacramentary, that is, the book used for the prayers of the Mass, gives a specific instruction regarding the homily for Holy Thursday. “The homily should explain the principal mysteries which are commemorated in this Mass: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood and Christ’s commandment of brotherly love.”
Because it's so intimately connected with the Eucharist, let's take a look at the priesthood. The German theologian, Fr. Karl Rahner, once spoke at the first Mass of a young Mexican priest. Many of his family and friends had come from Mexico to Austria where he was being ordained. Fr. Rahner’s words somewhat surprised them:
“You people,” he said, “expect everything from a priest. Everything, except the one the one thing he was ordained to give you – Christ crucified.”
Jesus gave the gift of the priesthood to his Church on the night before he died. He commanded the apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me.” When you stop to think about it, no command of the Lord has been obeyed more than that one. Throughout the world, in every time zone, in almost every language, there are hundreds, if not thousands of priests celebrating the Last Supper of the Lord.
Each year Pope Paul writes a Holy Thursday letter to the priests of the world. I’d like to quote one line from this year’s letter:
“As we gaze upon Christ at the Last Supper, as he becomes for us the ‘bread that is broken,’ as he stoops down in humble service at the feet of the Apostles, how can we (priests) not experience, together with Peter, the same feeling of unworthiness in the face of the great gift we receive.”
The pope then goes on to speak about how we should feel the grace of the priesthood as a “super-abundance of mercy.”
As I look back on my own years of priesthood – almost thirty now – I realize that it was often when I felt the weakest that I in fact accomplished the most. Or rather, I should say, Christ accomplished his work in me.
Tonite, together with Fr. Ramon Velasco and Deacon Ted Wiese, I will wash the feet of twelve men from our parish and will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper. I would like to share the one ambition I have – to serve you as your priest.
I know I have many limitations: I’m not the best at remembering names (I hope it’s not early Alzheimers), I’m not a great organizer or an eloquent speaker, but I want to give you the best, what you need the most – Christ crucified, truly present in the Eucharist. I do pray for you every day and ask that you do the same for me, especially when you come before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
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Bulletin (Holy Week Subtext: Jewish-Christian Relations)
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St. Mary of the Valley Album
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