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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. And so it begins. We enter prayerfully into the Easter Triduum on this holy night when we commemorate the final hours of Jesus’ life and the beginning of his passion – his last meal with his friends, his agony in the garden, his betrayal and arrest. In union with him, we once again celebrate the Eucharist in obedience of his command ‘Do this in memory of me’ and consider again the mystery of God’s love that we encounter here at the Mass. Rightly or wrongly, Mass attendance is still used as a barometer to measure the health of the Church today. But so often when we discuss this, we look at it from our own point of view. If we don’t participate we say things like ‘It does nothing for ME’. If we do participate then we can also give reasons that have to do with me, my upbringing and the benefits for me. On this Holy Thursday, we pause for a moment to consider the Eucharist, not from my point of view but from God’s point of view. And when we do this we come to see the Eucharist more as God’s way of uniting us to himself and serving us in love.

When we think about the nature of love, both human and divine, we notice how love always unites us, to one another and to God. The Lover always seeks to unite to the Beloved in the act of loving. So it goes with God. If God is love then by his loving he unites us to himself in a way that changes us. Here at the Eucharist this evening, God unites Himself to us again by handing himself over to us, totally and completely. He loves us completely for it is not possible to love by half. He does this through his Son, just like at the Last Supper when Jesus handed himself over to his friends in the form of bread and wine before he would be handed over to die on Good Friday.

God’s gift of his Son through the Eucharist is a gift like no other. It is a gift that does not remain outside of us but one that goes deep within and penetrates. The Scriptures speak of ‘putting on Christ’, about Christ ‘being formed in us’ and ‘having the mind’ of Christ. This means that if we allow him and ask him, Jesus makes us a little more like him each time he unites himself to us in the Eucharist. The more he unites himself to us in love, the more we become like him and become who he wants us to be. Therefore, the Eucharist is God’s way of uniting himself to us, over and over again until we begin to love with the same love as Jesus himself. Tonight we remember that the Eucharist is not a time where we remain passive spectators or fulfil an obligation. Rather it is an invitation from God to unite us intimately to himself. And in that unity between him and us, we are transformed.

The second aspect of Eucharist is how it is God’s way of serving us in love. St Thomas once defined love as ‘willing the good of the other’ and so connected love to service. We love others by serving them. We see that this evening in the Gospel when Jesus, who loved his friends to the end, showed them how perfect his love was when he began to wash their feet. With this profound gesture, Jesus teaches us that God wants to serve our joy and affirms everything about us that is wholesome, good and human. He does this with a love that is pure and seeks nothing for itself. He asks us, with his example and spirit, to do the same. We often hear people protest that faith in God or attending Mass is not necessary to be a good person. And indeed many people who don’t partake in Mass or believe are wonderfully good people. But we are fallen creatures who can so easily lose sight of our call to serve and to will the good of the other. The Eucharist takes us back, time and time again to the truth that our lives are not only about us but God’s purposes for us, and those he wishes us to serve.

Tonight, we treasure the gift of the Mass and its place in the life of our parish and the life of the Church. It contains within itself the gift of God’s love that wants to unite with every aspect of who we are. If and when this happens, we become free to look beyond our own interests and serve those to whom we are sent. The Mass is God’s way of loving us and a school where we learn how to serve. In the silence that ends tonight’s Mass, let us contemplate and adore this mystery.


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