I would like to share this wonderful Holy Thursday homily from the pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, Fr. Jeff Nicolas:
On the Fifth Sunday of Lent we heard God say through the prophet Isaiah, “See I am doing something new!” And indeed our God of creation has a proclivity to create. But tonight I am struck by the fact that our God in creating something new, chooses to recycle. Our God recycles.
I was surprised to learn in my studies of the Passover that its rituals existed before the depiction we find in our first reading tonight from the Book of Exodus. The Nomadic Semites had a feast they celebrated the night of the first full moon of spring. With the unleavened bread of the Bedouins, and some desert herbs, they ate a roasted lamb from the flock. This migration was a very important and dangerous occasion. To ward off these dangers, the Bedouins marked their tent pegs with the blood of the lamb.
God recycled this custom and its rituals for the great Exodus. Passover was now celebrated as a memorial of God’s intervention on his people’s behalf and an expression of hope in the Messiah’s coming. The recycled Passover ritual was divided into two distinct rites: unleavened bread and the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. Our God recycles.
Tonight as we join Jesus in his Passover meal we see that Jesus, as the Son of God, also is a recycler. Jesus takes the Exodus Passover and instills new meaning in it. Now this memorial of God’s intervention on his people’s behalf becomes infused with the new meaning of how God accomplishes this intervention through a New Covenant in Christ. Now the two distinct rites of the Exodus Passover (the unleavened bread and the sacrifice of the paschal lamb) are infused with new meaning as Jesus brings them both into himself. Now his is the unleavened bread shared as his Body. Now his is the blood, not that marks the doorposts of our homes, but the blood we drink under the sign of wine, the blood of the vine. In creating something new, our God recycles. And the new Passover will forever be connected with the Cross, a connection the disciples tonight have difficulty grasping.
As is often the case in the Gospels, the disciples’ difficulty is witnessed in Peter. Poor ole Peter, he still doesn’t understand the Cross. Recall it was Peter who after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion tries to talk Jesus out of the humiliation of it. Peter couldn’t see it. This same obtuse vision is at work tonight when Peter objects to Jesus washing his feet. “Master, are you going to wash my feet? You will never wash my feet.” He does not want to allow the Lord to humble himself.
Fortunately Peter comes around, but upon hearing his salvation depends on this washing Peter suffers yet another obtuse moment. “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus had told Peter, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” This is a part of what Peter had to learn after the Cross, that more than purification is at stake. Peter will learn that Jesus’ sacrifice not only frees us FROM sin (purifies), but it frees us FOR LOVE; “other-regarding actions”, foot washing.
John chapter 21…
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in a like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” … “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
This post-resurrection exchange will provide Peter, who will soon deny Christ three times in the midst of his crucifixion, his greatest lesson.
Peter will learn that our recycling God recycles each of us; forgives so we might become forgiven forgivers; frees us from sin so we might be free to love others, to feed and tend to others.
Tonight Jesus reveals our God recycles, “so that as I have done for you, you should also do for one another.”
Fr. Jeff Nicolas, Holy Thursday, Cathedral of the Assumption