Holy Thursday

April 13, 2017

April 13, 2017

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During the triduum, Jesus invites us into his life in an incredibly intimate and vulnerable way.  We, like his apostles and disciples, are asked to walk with Jesus in his suffering and we will also be asked to walk with him in his resurrection.

In the midst of his suffering, in the midst of persecution -- Jesus invites us to accompany him. In our yes to accompany him, we become his disciples. The Gospel we hear proclaimed today, the washing of feet that happens in all of our communities today-- is about reclaiming, revealing and remembering who it is that Jesus charges all of us to be for his church in the world.

Holy Thursday is about the institution of a priesthood of all believers, where through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we may bear witness to Christ in all that we do.

Holy Thursday is about the institution of a pilgrimage that the Lord set before Aaron and Moses in the 1st reading from Ezekiel.

Holy Thursday is about the institution of what Dr. King calls, “the beloved community. “

Holy Thursday is about the institution of a way of being in the world that is rooted in mercy.

Kerry Weber, managing editor at the Jesuit publication America Magazine says it best in her book  Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned and Keep your Day Job.

Kerry says, “Mercy is not something we bestow upon one another from on high in a sort of grand gesture, but rather something much quieter, more humble. It is an invitation, an openness, a kind of accompanying.  To have mercy is to give mercy.  And to give mercy is to empty oneself out to make room for the love of another.”

Holy Thursday is about the institution of merciful servant leadership.

In a way, this is our starting point. Tomorrow we accompany Jesus to the cross.  Saturday we stand together as a broken, beloved community in lament over the suffering of Jesus and in turn, in lament of the sufferings of our modern world. Sunday we hear Mary Magdalene’s proclamation that Jesus has risen. And we are sent forth as witnesses.

As we grow as people, as a beloved community, as a church, we are continually called back to Holy Thursday. We are called back to Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples’ feet.  And in that action we discover and re-discover again and again who Jesus calls us to be in our church and in our world.

My sisters and brothers, this call to be a beloved community, to be people of mercy is incredibly beautiful and it is incredibly challenging. Challenging because we live in a world fraught with inequality. A country broken by division. A church that maintains structures that oppress people, that marginalizes communities. We know that all of this - that inequality, division and marginalization- are not God’s dream for the world. Because on this Holy Thursday, we celebrate and remember the day when Jesus instituted the beloved community in which we are bound together by love and by mercy.

Jesus - fully human and fully divine - is love. He is mercy. Jesus experienced love and mercy from his community. He experiences love and mercy from us today. Let us not forget that a few weeks ago we heard the story of the unnamed woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears.  She accompanied Jesus.  She inspired Jesus’ dream of the beloved community. And he, in turn, today on Holy Thursday shares her action, her tears with us.

As Oscar Romero reminds us, “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

We are continually called back to Holy Thursday.  We are continually challenged by Holy Thursday.

Kerry Weber, again in her book Mercy in the City, shares a story about walking with a group with RCIA during Lent. Her story shares some of what the challenge and complexity of Holy Thursday is. Kerry describes a moment at the Easter Vigil when she is with the person she is sponsoring throughout Lent who is about to be baptized. They’re at the back of a church in New York City and the procession is about to start. At the last minute, a group from RCIA ask if there is one more moment to use the restroom. A group run to a side hallway in the church, a door has to unlocked for them, they create a little chaos and a headache for the liturgist. As they all exit the bathroom and prepare to enter the church to begin the procession, they find that the door to the church is locked. Kerry says this about the door to the church being locked,

Everything that we have been waiting for is on the other side of that door, so close and yet so very far away. And for a moment, the whole thing is sort of hilarious and tragic all at once: how often I’ve felt this way, on the edge of the church; inside, yet not quite there, hoping to be let in more fully, trying with all my might to be heard, to not cause too much trouble, to be a part of this thing that I love that is so beautiful and familiar. “Knock and the door will be opened for you,” Christ told the disciples. But he didn’t say how long that would take.

Kerry’s comments remind us of the Gospel today, when Simon Peter - stunned that Jesus might wash his feet asks Jesus, “Master are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus simply responds, “What I am doing, you don’t understand now, but you will understand later.”

My sisters and brothers, What Jesus did that day, what he does for us today - we don’t fully understand now. But on Easter Sunday we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  And his rising sets us forth on a pilgrimage that is directed by everlasting hope.  As Lumen Gentium articulates, “Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood. . . so that in all our works we may bear witness to Christ.”

Holy Thursday is about this institution of this.  We are continually invited to enter into the pilgrimage of discipleship with Jesus that is rooted in mercy and love. We are continually called back to Holy Thursday.  May these words from Oscar Romero set us forth on our pilgrimage of discipleship with Jesus in this Triduum:

Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.  Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. .  . Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.

First Reading

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14

PSALM

Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

Second Reading

1 Cor 11:23-26

GOSPEL

JN 13:1-15
Read texts at usccb.org

Natalie Terry

Natalie Terry is the Director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center & Children's Faith Formation at St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco, California. She has a Masters of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. In 2012 she was awarded a ministry fellowship with the Fund for Theological Education where she embarked in a project to explore modes of discernment for Roman Catholic women to explore calls to ordained ministry.  She graduated from John Carroll University in 2010 with Bachelor of Arts in religious studies, and served as a volunteer with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary in Pulaski, Pennsylvania.

Natalie has been a facilitator and prayer leader with the Ignatian Solidarity Network, and she serves as a lay preacher, lector, Eucharistic minister and presider of Communion services and Liturgies of the Word. She is originally from Wynantskill, New York, grew up in the Albany Diocese under the prophetic leadership of Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard and is an alumnus of Catholic Central High School in Troy, New York.

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