Given for you - Holy Thursday 2020

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Given for you - Holy Thursday 2020

Tonight in the second reading we heard St Paul – echoing the tradition of the early Church – describe that Jesus at the Last Supper took some bread and after blessing it, said: “This is my body, which is for you.” (I Cor 11:24) The Lord was very purposeful in all that he did during the Last Supper. It was to be a certain culmination of his relationship with his disciples. By these words Jesus offers himself as the Eucharistic gift.

The Last Supper reflects the orientation of the life and ministry of Jesus. His was a life simply and solely given for others. It was given in a special way to those who were and would become his disciples.

St John commented at the beginning of his account of the Last Supper: “He always loved those who were his own in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.” (Jn 13:1) His earthly life was coming to its end. He knew it. His words and actions are now directed to the time beyond his death and resurrection. His intention was to offer to all who would become his disciples down through history an enduring gift – the gift of his Body and Blood.

The deliberate and purposeful actions of Christ at the Last Supper anticipate Calvary when he would “lay down his life for his friends”. (Jn 15:13) His words and actions are intended to provide the fruits of his self-sacrifice on Calvary for all who would be his friends down through subsequent human history. They are to ensure that all who would believe in him would be sacramentally united with him. They would share in a most direct way with the saving action of the cross.

Humanity was redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross. It was a sacrifice offered once and for all. It was definitive. However, Christ offered his disciples, both then and now, the means by which they could enter into the mystery, drawing fresh grace for his saving action. At every Mass the faithful not only commemorate the events of Calvary, but they enter into its redemptive purpose.

The holy Mass is a gift, an extraordinary gift, given by Christ knowing the need of his disciples to be able to unite their lives with him and be drawn into the saving power of his death. The Lord makes a simple and humble request: “Do this as a memorial of me.” (I Cor 11:24) “Do this as a memorial of me.” He asks us to do as he did at the Last Supper. To repeat his actions in remembrance of him. This remembrance, however, is not some nostalgia for the past but is an active uniting of ourselves with him in whom we believe as true God and true man. It is our response in grateful love of him who has loved us to the end.

As we respond to the Lord’s invitation there can be no better way in which we can unite ourselves with him than by offering ourselves to him. St Paul teaches in his Letter to the Romans (12:1) to offer “your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God”. As Christ offered his body for us, in the painful death on a cross, we are asked to make an offering of ourselves, of our bodies, as a “holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God”. Thus, at each Mass we not only receive from Christ, but we, in our turn, make an offering of ourselves to him.

This offering is an offering of our faithful love. We declare at Mass: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”  We declare our faith in what Christ has done for us. We make this declaration with great fervour and profound gratitude.

We proclaim our faith that the death of Christ was the means by which we have been saved. We profess that Jesus has truly risen from the dead and that his resurrection is our promise of eternal life.

We are willing to make this declaration again and again until the Lord comes again. It will be the constant and bold declaration of the Christian people, knowing this to be the heart of our faith. This is the mystery we proclaim at every Mass. This is the mystery in which we participate at every Mass.

In these dark and uncertain times, there is a luminous light that radiates forth from the Church. The Mass continues to be celebrated across the world. The declaration that Christ has rescued humanity from evil and eternal annihilation by his death and resurrection gives each of us confidence in the future, in our future.

In this Mass in which we recall the events of the Last Supper we hold all humanity up to God, pleading for mercy and forgiveness on all the world. We pray, especially, for those who are dying due to the pandemic, often isolated and alone.

In this Mass, with the poignancy of our commemoration of the Last Supper before our minds, we make a sincere offering of ourselves to the one who has saved us out of death: “Jesus, as you have given yourself to me, so I now give myself to you. All that I am and all I desire to be I offer now to you.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Thursday 9 April 2020

Watch Holy Thursday Mass live streamed from St Mary's Cathedral in Hobart here.