Friday, March 29, 2013
I love the line in our Gospel, which is also included in one of the Eucharistic prayers priests may pray: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” Here John has in mind the end of Jesus life as a man. He knew he had to suffer and die for us, and he persevered in following his Father’s will.
Yet we know Jesus promised to be with us after he returned to the Father. In his last words recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus promises, “Lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the age.” Tonight we are asked by Holy Mother Church to reflect on two gifts Christ gives us to fulfill this promise: the priesthood and the Eucharist.
I am so grateful for the priests in my life. I thank God for Fr. Jude—who baptized me—for Fr. John—who was my pastor for twenty-four years, heard my first Confession, gave me first Communion and confirmed me—for priests who showed me the awesome call to the priesthood and led me along the path to discern God’s call in my life.
And now, on my twenty-ninth feast of the Last Supper, here I am, myself a priest. I want you to know I have been given no greater gift in my life. Even as a baby priest, I have seen more in eight or nine months than I had my whole life prior. I often experience in a day what many undergo in a lifetime because we are invited into the sacred moments of peoples’ lives. These cover the joyful—births, baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings—and the sorrowful—sickness, sinfulness, death and grieving.
I also want to thank you for your prayers as I was in seminary and now as your priest. This journey would not be possible without them. I humbly ask you to continue praying for me, Fr. Rich and all priests that we may be nothing more than good and faithful servants of God.
We celebrate the priesthood tonight in light of the second great gift God gives us to continue to be present in our lives—the Eucharist. Jesus commands the disciples, “Do this in memory of me,” and in so doing entrusts them with his body and blood. We call this night the Last Supper—and indeed it was Jesus’ last meal. Yet it is also the first Eucharist.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives. Is it in yours? It is the fulfillment of the Old Testament notion that only through shedding blood can sins be forgiven. It is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed so the Israelites could be spared. Jesus, in, shedding his own blood, frees us from sin and death and allows us to pass over into holiness and eternal life.
This Lent we have been given another great gift—Pope Francis. He inspires us to use the gifts God has given us—including the priesthood and the Eucharist—to serve. He shows us that we must help the poorest of the poor because that is what Christ did. I, in communion with our Holy Father and priests around the world, will wash the feet of our parishioners this evening. In so doing we emulate what Christ did for his disciples. As the washing of feet takes place, I would ask that you consider how you are called to wash feet in our world by service in our community.
On this night, please pray in thanksgiving for the priests in your life and pray they may be bridges to Christ. Thank God for the gift of the Eucharist and make Jesus’ body and blood the center of your lives. Then take these gifts and inspire those who need them too.