Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper Year B 2021 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Ex 12:1-14; 1Cor 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
1 April 2021
Celebration of the Last Supper: Becoming Christ’s body broken for others
My dear friends,
Tonight, we have come to commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, which is the source of our Christian life and the greatest expression of our faith. The Eucharist nourishes us so that we can in turn fulfil our mission of sharing divine life and love for all God’s people and creation in the world.
In the first reading taken from the Book of Exodus, we hear the description of the Jewish Passover meal. In this ritual, our Jewish forebears celebrate the deliverance from slavery and the call to build a society they are meant to be. The Passover meal reinforces their commitment to form a covenantal community in which the care of the most marginalised was to be the essential distinguishing feature. It was to be a model society that would shine as a light for the nations.
In the Last Supper, Jesus transforms the Jewish Passover meal. It is no longer just a celebration of freedom from bondage in Egypt. Jesus anticipates a new kind of exodus by his death and resurrection. He is the Passover Lamb, bringing about a new and greater exodus – leading us not to an earthly promise land, but to the reign of God’s justice and love.
Jesus demonstrates the ethos of the Kingdom in the dramatic gesture of washing of the feet. He subverts worldly notion of greatness, power and leadership by enacting the role of a servant. He illustrates powerfully to us what it means to be his follower. It is a relational paradigm or a model of living and being in the world, that is rooted in kenosis, that is in self-giving love as opposed to self-preservation. It is the path of the Beatitudes, of joy in weeping, of receiving in giving and of living in dying for others.
My dear friends,
Tonight’s celebration highlights for us what it means to be a disciple and what it means to be a body of Christ. In the world which is deeply suspicious of institutional religions, we need to be purified of all that is the antithesis of the Gospel spirit. We need to convert to the humble and servant Christ. Christianity or specifically Catholicism needs to regain not so much its former influence in an increasing secular society, but the quality of its witness by the depth of our integrity and our commitment to be servants of the world.
Maundy Thursday is also traditionally regarded as the birthday of the ministerial priesthood. Jesus presents a model of ministry that must be reclaimed unequivocally. We need to go to the drawing board which is the Gospel of service exemplified by Christ’s radical inversion of worldly values.
If the priesthood has a better future, it has to embody Christ’s radical example; it has to find expression in better mutual support, collaboration and partnership. It has to free itself from the variant strains of clericalism such as sexism, paternalism and individualism. We must learn to minister in relationship with one another and with the community.
While ordained for service, the priest remains not apart from but a part of the faithful in need of support, ministry and community. Though he preaches, he listens with open heart to the wisdom of others. Though he blesses, he also bows his head to receive the blessings of others. Though he ministers, he also recognises the ministerial charisms in others and works with them collaboratively for the good of the community.
My dear friends,
The Eucharist commits us the baptised to be Christ’s transforming presence in the world. For like him, we must suffer with others, be vulnerable with the vulnerable, be last with the least and be powerless with those without power. So let us become more fully what we already are: Christ’s body broken for others and his blood poured out for many. Let us embrace Jesus’ way of being the transformative force for the world, so that it may truly mirror the kingdom of peace, justice and love for all.
The Eucharist touches the very essence of our faith. Today, we give thanks for this gift of Christ’s body and blood. More importantly, we strive to imitate the self-giving nature of our God himself. As we celebrate and share the Eucharist, let us commit ourselves to the journey of transformation. May we grow daily into the Eucharistic Christ who reaches out to all people and leads them to the heart of God. May we model our lives on the one who came to that all have life and have it to the full.