Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper

In 13 Today's Church on 2016/03/24 at 12:00 AM

Tonight, my dear brothers and sisters, we are given two inseparable gifts, gifts that form the very heart of our Catholic faith: the Eucharist and the Priesthood.

  • They are gifts that are inseparable because neither can exist without the other. Without the Eucharist, there is no priesthood; without the priesthood, there can be no Eucharist.
  • Whereas the Eucharist forms the identity and purpose of the priest, being the primary reason priests are ordained, it is the priest who brings the Eucharist into being. And so it is that these two great gifts are mutually dependent on one another.
  • Together these two inextricably linked gifts form the very heart of our beautiful Catholic faith, for together they speak of the mystery of Jesus Christ Himself!
  • The Catholic religion exists so that Christ’s saving ministry may continue throughout human history, drawing man into the fullness of Truth and enlightening for man the sure and certain path to eternal salvation.
  • At the very core of this fullness of Truth embodied by our Catholic faith is the central truth that God loves us. God loves us so much that He was willing to become one of us, to die for us, and rise again so that we might rise with Him to newness of life.
  • He loves us so much that He gives us His very body and blood as true food and true drink so that we might taste life everlasting, even as we live on this earth.
  • This sacrificial love par excellence that we see in our Lord is perfectly embodied in the Eucharist and in the priesthood.
  • As an alter Christus the priest dies to himself and his life in this world so that he might impart to his bride – the souls entrusted to him – the eternal truths of our Catholic faith and provide her with the food of everlasting life: the Eucharist.
  • And the Eucharist, which forms the heart of priestly spirituality and gives the priest his raison d’etre, his very reason for existence, is proof positive that God is willing to go to any lengths to save us, even humbling Himself to become common bread and wine.
  • Properly understood and ideally lived, the Eucharist and the priesthood show us that the essence of love is sacrifice. The Eucharist and the priesthood show us that true and authentic charity is never self-serving, but self-giving.
  • Our first two readings tonight speak of the Eucharist, both it’s foreshadowing in the Old Testament and its institution in the New Testament.
  • But the Gospel focuses on the great act of charity our Lord committed in washing the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper, wherein He gave us these twin gifts of the Eucharist and the priesthood.
  • In performing this humble act of charity at the Last Supper, our Lord shows us that charity is at the heart of both the priesthood and the Eucharist. Indeed, both of these gifts show us the incredible charity of God. Imagine: God washing the feet of men!
  • But equally so, in showing us God’s love, the priesthood and the Eucharist should also recall for us the absolute necessity for all of us to exercise this highest and most important of virtues in our lives.
  • Charity is a divinely infused virtue that inclines the human will to cherish God above all things (and for His own sake), and to cherish other men for the sake of God.
  • The word charity is often equated with love, but the love that is charity is something given to us by God Himself. It is infused into our souls at baptism, and it resides in the will rather than in emotion.
  • Moreover, true Christian charity is necessary for salvation, and those who possess it will not be lost! It is the highest and most important of all the virtues because charity directs the actions of all the other virtues.
  • Charity is the seedbed of virtue, and it has a way of perfecting all the other virtues and bringing them to fruition within us. And so as we grow in charity, we grow in all the other virtues as well!
  • Thus, practicing charity is the vocation of every Christian, no matter our state in life. And certainly charity is practiced in a variety of ways. We see this illustrated by both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
  • Our Catholic faith calls us to give food and drink to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, shelter the homeless, and bury the dead.
  • Likewise, we are also called to the spiritual works of mercy: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, praying for the living and dead, bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving offenses.
  • These corporal and spiritual works of mercy are not just good ideas or helpful suggestions for us in living our Catholic faith with integrity; they are essential to it.
  • But true charity goes well beyond these acts of mercy by which we supply for the defects of our neighbors. True charity unites us in a bond of love with God, which will be fully realized when we get to Heaven.
  • Moreover, true charity is always ultimately directed toward salvation, both our own and those to whom we are charitable. Thus, there is never a conflict between charity and what we know to be true by our Catholic faith.
  • Thus, those who accuse us of being uncharitable (or worse) for opposing the moral atrocities and perversions that have become commonplace in our society – like abortion, same-sex unions, embryonic stem cell research, reproductive technologies, and euthanasia – have an erroneous understanding of what charity really is.
  • Being tolerant of sin or encouraging someone in his sin, whether tacitly or openly, is the precise opposite of charity because sin leads one to damnation. So if we wish to be truly charitable, it is imperative for us to speak and work against these evils in our society.
  • Furthermore, our Lord’s actions in the Gospel tonight and throughout His Passion and death show us that true charity must be willing to repay evil with good, forgive everything, and do all that we can to help others along the path to salvation – regardless of the cost to ourselves.
  • Our charity is incomplete, my brothers and sisters, if we cannot sacrifice ourselves generously and whole-heartedly for others. Jesus Himself shows us through His Paschal Mystery that there can be no limits to our charity.
  • And in the Eucharist, given to us through the priesthood, we are given the grace the grace to live a life of limitless and supernatural charity.
  • Moreover, as we consider these great gifts of the Eucharist and the priesthood, limitless charity on our part is the only proper response to our Lord’s charity to us.
  • Our Lord gave us His all by dying for us. And even after His death and resurrection, He continues to care for us through the priesthood and the Eucharist. Is there anything we can deny Him or one another out of love for Him?


© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

You can go directly to his homilies:


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