'Do this in memory of me' - Holy Thursday 2019

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Do this in memory of me' - Holy Thursday 2019

The Mass was born at the Last Supper. It was born when the Lord said to his Apostles gathered for the annual Jewish Passover Meal, “Do this in memory of me.” At that moment he effectively ordained them to do what he did and say what he said. This was to be his lasting gift to his Church. In this way He would always be with his disciples, now present in sacramental form. Jesus, the Lord, promised that he would not leave his disciples orphaned. The Mass would be the form par excellence in which His risen presence would be accessible to those who love him and want to be in communion with him.

In his words over the bread and wine be anticipates his death and resurrection. The bread would become his body, the wine his blood. Sharing in the Holy Communion we share not only in the presence of our beloved Lord, but we also share in his saving death and resurrection.

Calvary in all its brutality was in fact the greatest act of love. The Lord would turn suffering into salvation, pain into the healing, and sacrifice into redemption. Every Mass enters this mystery afresh. We enter into Christ’s death and are transformed by the new life released in his Resurrection.

As the Acts of the Apostles records, the first Christians gathered for the Breaking of the Bread. This Eucharistic liturgy was the foundational Christian practice, and it was celebrated on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the day of the Resurrection.

And so the Mass has become the defining religious action of Catholics down through the centuries. It has become our essential act of worship of Almighty God. There is nothing with which to compare it. There is no human action that can come near. We know that in every Mass we are drawn into the realm of the divine. We are participating in something that lifts us up.

We are invited at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer to lift up our hearts. We do so. And our next response is to unite our voices with those of the angels who are around the throne of God. So we sing, “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” We joyfully acclaim in the awareness that our voices blend in the eternal chorus, “Hosanna in the highest.” In that moment earth and heaven unite. What we are celebrating on earth is taken up into heaven. We are taken up into the heavenly realm. 

In this moment we are no longer bound to this earth. Our liturgy is part of the eternal liturgy. Our poor and broken lives are lifted to a new dignity of being in union with the angels and saints.

The Mass takes us beyond ourselves. Our spirits are nourished. Our hearts lifted high. Our minds irradiated with heavenly light.

We are now in communion with heaven. When we come to the altar and receive the body and blood of the Lord, we know we are participating in a presence and a love which defies human understanding.

This was Christ’s great gift to us at the Last Supper. As he met for the last time with his beloved disciples, the cross cast a deep shadow over him. His soul anguished at what lay before him. But he was focused not on himself. His full attention was upon his band of apostles, and on all who would come to know him and love him as they fulfilled his command to take the message to the ends of the earth.

At the Last Supper the heart of the Lord was upon us. The suffering was nigh, but he wanted to provide for his disciples until the end of time. This was why he said in solemn and measured words, “This is my body given for you.” Given for you. It was to be given on Calvary. It is given in every Mass.

So we come to Holy Communion in humble gratitude, aware of the enormity of the gift and the depths of our unworthiness. Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. I can never be worthy to receive you into the mess of my life. But you come. You want to come. You make no demands, but come to us just as we are. Such is your extraordinary compassion towards us in our sinfulness.

Tonight we enter into the Sacred Triduum. Let us quietly contemplate the events of the Last Supper and ponder in our hearts the wonder and the beauty of the gift of the Mass.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Thursday, 18 April 2019