Holy Thursday – the Priesthood, the Eucharist, and Fraternal Charity

Homily for Holy Thursday
April 14, 2022
Sacred Heart, EGF – 7:00 PM

This day shall be a memorial feast for you.

The Lord speaks these words to Moses and Aaron before they celebrate that first Passover.  He is going to lead them out of Egypt.  The 10th plague, the death of the firstborn, will be the final plague that sets them free.

God will protect the Israelites from death by means of the Passover Feast.  They slaughter the lamb and sprinkle the blood on the doorposts.  The angel of death will “pass over” them. 

This is the feast of Passover. 

This day shall be a memorial feast for you.

For the Israelites, Passover wasn’t something that happened many years ago.  It was made present to them every year by their participation in it. 

They relived the events every year on the memorial feast
They didn’t merely remember; they re-lived. 
The past was made present to them.

This day shall be a memorial feast for you.

The Lord gathers tonight to celebrate the Passover, that memorial feast, with his disciples.
He says, Do this in memory of me.

In other words:

This shall be a memorial feast for you.

And, as for the Israelites, so for us.  We do not simply remember what the Lord did.  What the Lord did is made present for us.  Here.  Tonight. 

Tonight, the Church commands the priest to shed light on the 3 mysteries highlighted in this memorial feast.  The priest is to speak about the priesthood, the Eucharist, and fraternal charity.

First, Priesthood.

What is the priest?  The priest is one who offers sacrifice. 
The priest stands in the person of Christ
and acts in the person of Christ, the head of the body, that is the Church.

The Lord said to them, “Do this in memory of me.”

Not just “remember this.”  But “make it present.”  Make me present.  Make me present for my people so that the grace I won for them can be applied to their lives.

The Son of God took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
We call that the incarnation – when God became man. 

The priesthood exists to extend the incarnation,
to continue to allow God to become man.

A man called to the priesthood
offers his human nature to Christ.

He offers his flesh to Christ
so that the divine power that flowed through Christ
can flow through the priest who acts in his person
to bring the life of God into the lives of God’s people
through the sacraments.

Just as our Great High Priest offered himself,
so the priest who is configured to Christ
is to offer himself in sacrifice
for the sake of the People of God.

The priest is an “alter Christus”, “another Christ.”

The priesthood continues the Real Presence of Jesus in the world.

Tonight was the night that the Lord instituted the priesthood. 

Do this in memory of me.

The priesthood exists for the sake of the Eucharist. 

The Eucharist, as we know, is the flesh and blood of the Lord.
The whole Christ is present in the Eucharist.
His humanity and his divinity are present in the Eucharist.
Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity.

I said that the priesthood continues the Real Presence of Jesus in the world.
The Eucharist continues the Real Presence of Jesus in the world.

The blood of the sacrificial lamb
was smeared on the doorposts of the Israelites
and the angel of death passed over them. 
The blood, the sign of life, preserved their lives.

The blood of the Lamb of God now anoints the lips of believers
so that they might live,
so that they might “pass over” from death to life
even as the Israelites “passed over”
from the death of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of life of the Promised Land.

The Eucharist is the gift of the Son
who continues to be made present on our altars
so that his one sacrifice which he will complete tomorrow
can be continually offered to the Father,
presented to the Father
for our salvation and the salvation of the world.

He then gives his Body and Blood to us
to be our food for this journey of life,
to feed us until he leads us home.

Do this in memory of me.

Jesus offered his Body and Blood,
His whole self,
including his blood, sweat, and tears,
which he will soon shed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

He offered himself for us because he loves us.
He did it out of love for us.

Which bring us to the third mystery we celebrate today:

Love from the heart. 

Love was what led Jesus to give himself for us.
Love is what led him to wash the feet of the disciples.

I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, so you should also do.

Do this in memory of me.

The priesthood gives us the Eucharist.
The Eucharist gives us God, who is love.

Jesus taught us the two greatest commandments:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself. 

Tonight, he raises the bar.

It is no longer enough to love your neighbor as yourself.

He gives us a new commandment:
Love one another as I have loved you.

Tomorrow, his love will lead him to offer his life for us.

Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for a friend.
You are my friends, if you keep my commands.

Jesus gives us the command of love at the same time he gives us the Eucharist and the Priesthood.

The Priesthood, the Eucharist, and Fraternal Charity all continue the Real Presence of Jesus.

Charity toward others means that I see the presence of Jesus in them.  Charity is showing reverence to Christ in the other like we show reverence to Christ in the Eucharist. 

Following the Lord,
we lay down our lives in order to enrich the lives of others. 

Love moves us to use our baptismal priesthood
to offer the sacrifice of ourselves
for the sake of God and one another. 

Love says, “you are worth the sacrifice.  You are worth dying for.” 

Do this in memory of me.

Our Lord tonight institutes the priesthood, the Eucharist, and the commandment of fraternal charity.

All three go together.  All three are necessary. 

All three have the same goal:
Union with.
Union with God.  Union with one another.

The priesthood, the Eucharist, and the command of charity all exist for the sake of communion.
If one of them is missing, something of Christ is missing. 

Brothers and sisters, these mysteries are made present for us tonight.
Let us receive them and allow them to be made present in our lives.

Do this in memory of me.

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