Triduum Homilies: Canon Pat Browne on Holy Thursday

Canon Pat Browne gave the following sermon at Holy Apostles, Pimlico in central London on Thursday.

If you have ever had the priviledge of spending a lot of time with someone you love in the weeks and days before they died, you will know what I mean when I say, how special were the things they said and did in those final days.

The Apostles were in the same situation with Jesus.  He hadn’t long left – only hours now. So being with those he loved at this Passover Meal was very important to him...and to them.  How important , they didn’t fully realise till he was gone.
People before they die will often tell you it is not dying that is making them sad but leaving those they love. That’s what is breaking their heart.  This is how Jesus was feeling.  “My soul is sorrowful – even unto death” he tells them.

What the dying person wishes for most is that they won’t be forgotton as soon as they have gone. That they will be remembered in the hearts of those who loved them.  And they wish they could find a way to stay.

That is what this night is all about.   Jesus did find a way  - to stay with us and to be remembered.

He took the Bread and Wine, blessed it and told them;  from now on when you come together as my followers and have a  meal like this and bless and share the bread and wine and take it into your life, you will be remembering me and taking me into your life as really and truly as you are doing here tonight with me.

It is interesting to note that the word Remember is made up of two parts – re and member – put together again the significant parts and make happen again.

That is what we are doing tonight. Putting together what happened at the Last Supper, Good Friday and Easter Sunday – it is all here in this Mass we are celebrating.  We are re-membering, putting it together again and we are part of it all even though it happened 2,000 years ago.

And what did Jesus  do?  Because this is significant when it comes from a dying man – his last action.  He washed their feet on this night.  He offered himself on the Cross the next day.  These two actions go together.  The first is symbolic, the second is actual.  Not only memorable actions for the Apostles but shocking to them. It was a servant’s job to wash feet  It was Lamb’s task to be slaughtered for the people’s sins.
But he was the Master. Why is he demeaning himself so?   What on earth for?  He knew when he was gone they would be confused, tetchy and there would be squabbles, infighting, and jostling for position.  Any of them with a capacity for taking control would want things done their way. They were strong characters. Indeed there aren’t many funerals where this sort of thing doesn’t happen in some way.  

So he tells them in no uncertain terms. “if you want to be true to me, you will avoid this sort of nonsense.  You will serve one another and not seek to dominate every situation.  You will put aside personal ambition and seek the best for others first.  You must die to self and live for others.

Within 24 hours he would be dead and buried.  Would they remember what he said?  Would they carry out his wishes?   Certainly it took some time for them to understand.  Indeed they didn’t understand till Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. Then everything clicked into place for them.

And you and me?  Are we faithful to his wishes?  We come and remember and receive him in the Eucharist.  We must not do it lightly but appreciate the significance of what we do and do it with love and devotion.

Do we wash feet?  Not literally but metaphorically.  Are we sensitive to the needs of others we live with, work with,  are we aware of the the needs of people in other parts of the world and other parts of society? Or are we locked into our own comfortable little world where we expect others to be at our beck and call?

Having Communion, having intimacy with Jesus in The Eucharist and Serving Him by the way we serve others – these are his wishes.  They are in His last will and testament.

If we follow them we will inherit what he has left us in his will – the Gift of Eternal Life.

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