Holy Triduum 2017:
Tonight marks the beginning of the most important time in our year. This holy night begins 3 amazing days for the Catholic Church. And it’s important to be sure we have the right idea about history.
For many people, history is simply the retelling of an old event. I think about this fact every year on December 7. On that date we hear about the attack on Pearl Harbor, about the loss of life, and how December 7 is a day that will live in infamy. This is what it means for most people to think about history. We remember what happened on that day. We even vow to continue to learn lessons from the past. But, it’s very clear that Pearl Harbor was an attack that happened many years ago.
The Triduum is not history in this sense at all. For Catholics, the Triduum is an event that always lives in the present tense. Every year when we mark the events of the triduum, they are not old, they are not history; rather, it’s like they are happening right now. Now, I’m not saying that these events happen each year. Jesus doesn’t die anew every time. Rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the events of the Triduum are happening right now, and we are privileged to be there. It’s almost like we get to open a window in time, and we are present with the Lord during these three eventful days.
Tonight we draw near to Christ. He stoops down to wash our feet. He feeds us with his Body and Blood. He gives us the gift of the Holy Priesthood to carry on his ministry in his name. But, I cannot stress enough, we are there. That’s why we celebrate the Mass tonight. That’s why I will wash the feet of people here this evening. This is why we will worship the Holy Eucharist at the end of this Mass. Because tonight we don’t remember Jesus, or simply talk about him. Tonight we experience Jesus, and we talk TO him.
Tomorrow, we will stand at the foot of the cross and take in his saving sacrifice. Saturday night we will gather in the dark, when all hope seems lost, and we will see the light of Christ burst forth into the night. These are not simply past events. We will live them and experience them. So open your hearts to the Lord.
But, this is not so easy as it sounds. Opening our hearts to the Lord and receiving his love can be quite a challenge. We may not feel worthy of Christ’s love. We may not realize how much we need Christ’s love. We might not even know Jesus well enough to tell if we need his love and mercy in our lives. What might be blocking you from receiving his love?
Look at St. Peter in the gospel tonight, he wasn’t ready to be served by Jesus. Now, on the face of it this looks like piety: no, no Jesus: you are too good and holy to do something so lowly as wash my feet. Maybe Peter would have even said further: I should be washing your feet, I should be serving you. And, that’s really true if you stop to think about it. We should all be ready to worship Christ, to love and serve him. But, Jesus’ answer is pretty astounding: If I don’t wash your feet you have no inheritance with me. Don’t you find that fascinating? Peter says you should be the one to wash my feet; Jesus replies, this is the only way you will have eternal life. Why is that?
My friends, perhaps Peter had great intentions there. Maybe he wanted to be moved by Love for Christ, maybe he would have said: I will serve you Lord. But, as always, Jesus knows better. The only way for Peter to really understand what it means to serve, to love, is for him to experience Christ’s love, and his humble service. I think it’s the old adage: you can’t give what you don’t have. Peter is motivated to give love and service, but Jesus tells him: you will have nothing to give if you do not first receive from me.
This is the idea that I’m taking away from tonight’s mass. It’s not always easy to open our hearts and to receive from Jesus, but it’s the only way that we can be filled with love. I’m sure all of us here would say: I want to love Christ, I want to serve him. Listen to Jesus say to each one of us: unless I wash you, you have no inheritance. Unless you let me love you, you will have no love within you.
Tonight on this Holy Thursday, Christ loves us in three ways: service, the priesthood, and the Holy Eucharist. Each of these are great gifts given to us by Christ who loves us till the end.
First, service. Jesus bends down to wash the feet of his disciples. When have we experienced the love and care of God or others. We can all look to our baptism. Jesus washed us clean there. Pray for Alexis and Timujin who will be baptized Saturday night. But, maybe you’ve had other experiences where someone loved and served you because of their kindness. If we are going to serve others, we need to recognize all the service we have received.
Second, the priesthood. Here is one that is pretty humbling for me, I can tell you. I’m always wondering: who am I to be chosen for the priesthood. Believe me, I’m not perfect, not even close. I’ve got tons of weird hang-ups and quirks, I’m a sinner, constantly in need of God’s mercy. And yet, just like he chose those 12 apostles so long ago, Jesus chose me for the priesthood. This doesn’t really say very much about me, but it says an awful lot about Jesus. Jesus loved us so much, that he wanted his lasting presence to be felt in the church. He didn’t want us to be left without guides and shepherds. So, he chose humble and simple men and asked them to lead and guide his people. This ministry of service has been handed down from generation to generation by the power of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Thinking about what the priesthood really means, I could be tempted to say something like Peter: you can’t give me this amazing spiritual gift, Lord. But Jesus says: if you don’t receive this gift, my people will go without the sacraments, without the forgiveness of their sins, without the guidance they need in their lives. So, I continue to open my own heart to the gift of the priesthood.
But, let me make a special request. Please keep praying for us priests. I’m always constantly aware of my inadequacies. We need your prayers and support. And pray for more priests. If you want to keep receiving the gifts of the sacraments, pray for more priests.
Finally, the eucharist. Jesus shows us how much he loves us by handing over his body and blood to us. He shows us that he loves us till the end of time. But, again, like Peter, we might be tempted to say: I’m not worthy to receive something so precious. Let Jesus love you, let Jesus feed you, let Jesus literally fill you up with his love. Tonight we celebrate the eucharist, and we will worship the Eucharist following the mass. There is no better proof to us of the Lord’s lasting love than the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Don’t be afraid to open your heart to this precious gift.
So, tonight is all about the love of Jesus. This is not just some event in the past. No, it’s happening now. He loves us by serving us, by giving us the priesthood, by giving us the Eucharist. However, it can be really easy to be St. Peter. We can block receiving God’s love if we think we are not worthy, not ready, or not in need. But, let the response of Jesus ring out in your hearts: if you don’t let me love you, you will have no inheritance with me. Therefore, as we begin this Holy Triduum, with St Peter as our model, we open our hearts to the Love that Christ wants to give us this evening.