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04/18/19 Holy Thursday - Fr. Reggie

Being a Christian means more than just being nice.  It means centering our whole lives, every last detail, on a person: Jesus Christ.

Other great religious leaders of history pointed to their teaching. They said, "follow my teaching". Jesus pointed to himself. He said, "Follow me." 

When Jesus stood up from the supper table, wrapped that towel around his waist, and started washing the disciples' feet, it was shocking for two reasons.

First, because of the nature of the task. In ancient Palestine, washing other people's feet was a job reserved for slaves. By lowering himself to the level of a slave, then, Jesus is making it forever clear to his Apostles, the first leaders of the Church, that the way of Christ is a way of self-giving, not self-indulgence. Jesus never sought to get, but only to give. His followers are to do the same. That in itself goes far beyond simply being nice.

But secondly, he was disrupting the sacred ritual of the most hallowed ceremony in Jewish tradition: the Passover Seder, the ceremony that God himself had commanded Moses to institute to commemorate the Israelites' miraculous escape from Egypt [first reading]. God himself had established the rules of that ceremony, and Jesus was deviating from them, adding to them, just as he did when he established the Eucharist [second reading]. Clearly, Jesus sees himself as more than just another teacher or prophet, on the same level as Moses. Only God himself can alter God's commands.

And so, when the foot-washing is over and Jesus says to his Apostles, "You call me ‘teacher' and ‘master,' " his claim is clear. Yes, he is a great teacher, but he is also the Lord

We are Christians, not just because we accept a creed, not just because we are nice, but because we have accepted a person, and made our relationship with that person the most important thing in our lives.

The Eucharist is one of many proofs that being a Christian means much more than just being nice.

In the Eucharist Jesus Christ gives himself completely and unreservedly to each one of us. He comes into our lives! And when we receive him, we commit our lives to him.

This is the heart of Christianity: a person-to-person encounter, inside the Church, with our God.

Nowhere is this heart to heart appeal of Christ more clearly sounded than during the Last Supper. Picture the scene: The Twelve are gathered with their Master for the most sacred meal of the year. The stone walls of the upper room are lit with the warm light of flickering torches and lamps. The apostles and Jesus are reclining at the low table, eager to share the lamb, the bread, the wine, and the bitter herbs. The Apostles sense the added intensity in Jesus' words and manner, and their own expectations rise to a higher pitch.

When Jesus interrupts the Passover ritual by standing up, their eyes are fixed on him. Conversation ceases. Eating stops.  Jesus walks over to the large water jug, the silence deepens. Slowly, deliberately, but still without a word, Jesus begins washing their feet. Only Peter breaks the silence, but he quickly quiets down. Finally, Jesus gets up and once again takes his place at the table. The Apostles are turned towards him, their faces begging for an explanation. He looks at each of them. At last he breaks the long silence: "... You call me ‘teacher' and ‘master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am..." And then he begins his Last Supper discourse, the longest speech of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, the blinding revelation of his volcanic love. Extending through four chapters, it is even longer than the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus has so much he wants to say to us, so much he wants to do for us and through us. Too much, in fact to put into writing, which is why he decided to stay with us and give himself to us directly, entirely, in the Eucharist.

The Lord is inviting us today to renew our awareness of his personal call to each one of us, and to renew our response to that call.

The Eucharist is the perfect summary of this dynamic, intimate relationship. It is where Christ comes to us to renew his invitation, and where we receive him, renewing our loyalty.

The best way to keep Christ at the center of our lives is to keep the Eucharist at the center of our lives. We are Christians, and that means that we build our lives around Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. And so nothing else should take precedence, nothing else should be more important to us.

It is not difficult to make the Eucharist the center of our lives.  It doesn't mean spending all of our time here in Church, though God does call some people to dedicate their lives in such a way.  But for most of us, it means simple things, like receiving Communion regularly and worthily, going to confession beforehand if necessary. It means trying to get to Mass more than just on Sundays. It means including Mass and Holy Communion in birthday and anniversary celebrations and other special occasions. It means carving a few minutes out of our busy schedules to come and sit with the Lord, to drop by the Tabernacle, where Jesus is always waiting for us, praying for us, and keeping the gifts of his grace ready for us.

[Here you can make reference to the liturgical services of the Holy Triduum as opportunities to renew our friendship with Christ and pray for those who don't know Christ or who have fallen away from the Church.]

As we receive the Lord now in Holy Communion, let's thank him for all he has done for us, and let's renew our commitment to do more than just be nice, to be true followers of Jesus Christ, to keep him in the very center of our lives.

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