This homily for Holy Thursday at the Cathedral of the Assumption was written by Fr. Tony Olges. Because of his hospitalization at the last minute, Fr. Jeff Nicolas delivered it. In light of the theme of our mission from Jesus to love one another and the special circumstances, I believe it well worth reading and reflecting during this Easter Octave.
Aware that other Gospel writers had already detailed Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, John takes care to bring out the story of Jesus’ example of service, which led into that first Eucharist. Jesus, wrapping a towel around himself, kneels before each of the twelve and performs the servant’s task of washing their feet. Despite Peter’s resistance, despite Judas’ treachery, Jesus kneels before them. He tells them and us that this is His mandate: to serve one another and to serve the world. And then Jesus’ service extends to sure and certain sacrament: He gives His Body and His Blood as our food before He offers His Body to the cross.
John devotes five chapters in his Gospel to Jesus’ prayers and teachings on the night of that Last Supper. He gives us to the depth of meaning of that gift: Jesus’ thankful gift, His sacrifice, His life for ours, His Eucharist.
- He gives a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.
- There is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.
He assures them and us that:
- There are many rooms in the Father’s house.
- He himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- He will not leave us orphans
- He gives us the gift of His peace, a peace the world does not know.
- He describes our mutual relationship to Him as branches to a vine.
- He promises to send us the Spirit as an Advocate.
Re-read this Gospel before you return for Good Friday services. Notice how much of this Gospel section appears as readings for our funeral services. How often have you heard them in celebrating the fulfillment of the promises of Baptism at the death of a loved one.
After all this, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son….for I have glorified you on earth and have finished the work you gave me to do.”
Tonight in our service, in our Mandatum and in our Eucharist, and each day within these walls and without, you and I are called to glorify God and to glorify His Christ and to finish the work He has given us to do.
Day by day, we work at what our faith means: service to God and service to others. And one day that work will be joined fully to the victory of Christ we begin to celebrate tonight.
Annie Dillard wrote that the last word a person speaks is not “Please:”
That is, not please, one more day. Not please, one more chance. Not please, I didn’t realize.
…the last word a person speaks is not “Please” but “Thank you:”
Thank you for the gift of my life! Thank you for people to love and to be loved by! Thank you for the ability and strength you gave me. Thank you for letting see your face in the faces of the poor, of those on the margins, of the dispossessed, the orphan, the widow,the immigrant. Thank you for your mercy for those times I fell short in my faith.
The last word a dying person says is not “Please,” but “Thank you.”
Each day of our lives brings us closer to the end. Each day of our lives can move us closer to the habitus, the virtue of thankfulness, to use please only when needed, to offer Eucharist because it is essential. Find a way tonight to do the essential: to be fully present before the God giving himself to you in service and sacrament, to stay in prayer before the tabernacle, to kiss your children good night, to tell your spouse of your love, to give without thinking of receiving. Offer your service, give of yourself. Know that the Son of God has done and continues to do just that. He gives thanks to the Father for the gift of us; He brings us into his sacrifice, His Eucharist, His everlasting life.