Deacon Les Ruhrmund
18 April 2019
How is it possible to adequately describe or explain the magnitude, the magnificence, the importance and the impact of the events that we are recalling and celebrating in the Sacred Easter Triduum that has started this evening; the start of these three holiest of all holy days.
This is the very core of our faith; the very essence of Christianity and yet many Catholics still think only of attending Mass on Easter Sunday morning having skipped the events of the previous two days. That’s a little like attending only the prize giving at Wimbledon without having actual watched any of the tennis; without having shared in the drama and events leading up to the finale.
Without the events of Holy Thursday, there would be no Mass, no Blessed Sacrament and no priesthood. At the Last Supper, Our Lord entrusted the apostles with the task of celebrating the Eucharist, and in this very action he consecrated them priests. The Holy Mass as we know it today emerged from the religious practices of the apostles following the Last Supper.
The earliest written description that we have of the Mass goes back to St Justin Martyr written between 153 and 155 A.D; nearly 1900 years ago.
Jesus promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of time. That promise is made a reality in his real presence in the Eucharist.
Quoting from the Catechism: The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.
I’m sure many of us find it almost impossible to even imagine not having the Blessed Sacrament to enrich and nourish our faith and our relationship with God.
Notwithstanding the ugly abuse scandals and shame brought on the Church by some of the clergy that have been highlighted in the media over the past number of years, we should never let this dark shadow dim our appreciation, gratitude and indebtedness to the very vast majority of priests who serve the church faithfully and bring Christ to us in the Eucharist.
We should also pray constantly for new vocations to the priesthood and actively encourage young men to become priests because we need them; without priests to offer the sacrifice of the Mass there is no Blessed Sacrament.
What an extraordinary night that was when Jesus met with his 12 personally chosen disciples to celebrate the Jewish Passover in the Upper Room. His own trial, torture and death was merely hours away. And Jesus does something quite shocking; quite unthinkable. He gets down on his knees and washes their feet.
In ancient Palestine people wore sandals or went barefoot and they walked on dirt roads shared by herdsmen driving their animals to market and traders moving goods by ox and camel. Foot-washing was a sign of hospitality but this was a job reserved for slaves. It was one of the most unpleasant and humiliating tasks.
On the days preceding the Passover, Jerusalem would have been heaving with humanity. Many thousands of Jews (some estimates put the number at a few hundred thousand) from near and far including distant countries would have come to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and celebrate Pesach.
The streets would have been congested with people, donkeys, horses, camels and the thousands of sheep and goats for sacrifice – littering the streets with their urine and excrement. The dirty feet of the apostles would not have been an appealing sight.
This sign that Jesus gives them by washing their feet, this mandate to love through humble service would have made an indelible impression on them and most surely influenced their future ministry.
The washing of the feet is a vivid illustration to us of the hardship, the struggle and the enormous challenge in loving even when it’s unappealing and we’re hurting.
Imagine for a moment Jesus taking the feet of Judas in his hands and gently washing them clean knowing that Judas had already betrayed him. And kneeling at the feet of Peter knowing that he would within hours vehemently deny that Jesus was even a friend. Washing the feet of the others who, with the exception of young John, would by morning, be in hiding having deserted him and left him to suffer and die alone.
And now let us imagine for a moment that Jesus is kneeling before us, gently holding our feet in his hands. He knows. He knows what’s in our hearts; our fears and disappointments, our questions and our doubts, our struggles and weaknesses, our hurt, our pain and our loneliness. He knows.
Even knowing the deceit, doubt and dishonesty that were in the hearts of his apostles, Jesus loved them. He loved them and entrusted his Church to them.
He loves us and entrusts himself to us in the gift of the Eucharist; the gift of his Real Presence.
Jesus says to us tonight: Now do you understand how much I love you?
Do as I have done.