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The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Midday Reflection with Fr. Hensell Day 1 / Holy Thursday Readings


The Last Supper

The Parish of Sacred Heart was crowded with members and visitors who were seeking to be fed with the Word of God. Many persons took advanrtage of the schedule time where they were able to leave work for lunch, fill the soul and return back to work. Even the body needs nourishment so a boxed lunch was provided for all who wished to eat on their way back to the office.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the most sacred days of the entire Liturgical year takes place on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

For Roman Catholics the celebration of Easter begins Saturday night. Our rituals and symbols are probably at their riches during these three days. We do a lot of parading, a lot of processing, we wash feet, we light fire, we ring bells; all of the senses are involved. That's by design; we teach by rituals and we teach by symbols and also by words.

Holy Thursday can be considered the day that Jesus puts his house in order. By this time he knows what's going to happen, he knows he's going to die. So he wants to focus on his disciples; he wants to prepare them in a way for what's going to happen afterwards. Who's going to take over, what's going to be the mentality. You read different Gospels you get different approaches.

The Liturgy wants to emphasize on Holy Thursday, the last supper because that was when Jesus got together with his disciples and celebrated the final meal. Most people who study this would say that the final meal was in fact the Passover meal. Therefore it's not by accident that the first reading is a reading about the institution of the Jewish Passover. Many times we don't pay any attention to that. (The institution of the Jewish Passover, Exodus 12)

 Under the theme "The Last Days of Jesus", Fr. Hensell breaks down the readings as seen through the Liturgical Readings of Holy Week beginning today with those from Holy Thursday. How Blessed we are to be given the gift of the Eucharist.
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14

For the Jews, the Passover was the preeminent liberating event. It celebrated going from bondage to freedom. From Egypt(which represented bondage; Pharaoh, the great symbol of oppression) into the promised land. That was considered to be the most thing in their religious memory that had ever happened to them. Don't ever forget, our God is a God of freedom, our God is a God of liberation no matter what it might appear to be in our everyday experience we believe God ultimately will lead us out of oppression into freedom. That's what this piece is all about.

Now remember, when the Christians come along and they enact their own meal and celebrate their own Passover it's not going to be a lamb; it's going to be Jesus. He will become this lamb. But if you don't know about this lamb then when you hear about what happens to Jesus you miss the good portion of the story because we are re-celebrating God's great act of liberating of freedom when we celebrate what happens to Jesus.

Having to put some of the blood from the lamb on the doorposts was the sign, the symbol that God will pass over your house. If you don't then you're in for some serious trouble because God has had it up to the ear bone with Pharaoh. Thus we get the name title "Passover". God will Passover, your life will be spared.

God has given us this wonderful power called "making memory". Which is another way of "making presence". Not "kind of like" making presence but "really like" making presence. If you're a Christian that happens to be a Roman Catholic that should not sound strange, because that begins the understanding of what later on in Roman Catholic Church we will talk about as "real presence".

Real presence was not invented by Christians. Real presence was not invented when Thomas Aquinas happen to find the hylomorphic theory of Aristotle and created a rather obscure doctrine that only a few people can really explain called transubstantiation, which is a philosophical approach to how can bread and wine actually change into body and blood. We had a sense of that long before Aquinas. We had a sense of that from our Jewish ancestors who said "all you have to do is come together with this wonderful power called "make present", memorialize. That's why this is the first reading, because Holy Thursday is also dedicated to the Eucharist.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes", are what we call words of institution, but there's no story. And if you want the story you got to go to Mark, Luke and Matthew. They all have Jesus at the last supper which was a Passover meal. He does most of the things you are suppose to do. A Passover meal has rituals, gestures and words. He does most of them, but he changes some of the words. The words we just heard him say are not in the original Passover. That's his interpretation. When you read the story in the Gospel you will notice that the disciples make no response. They won't understand until after he is raised up and remember the story in Luke 24, two guys on the road to Emmaus they are discourage that Jesus had been killed. They invite him to stay the night, they sit down and he breaks the bread and all of a sudden they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. It's only with these gestures that happened and these words he spoke that they realize what he meant; that's how we make him present even when he's gone back to the Father. If you read Mark 11 all the way to chapter 15 he talks about the Church as the body of Christ which can not be divided per Paul because if the Church is divided you loose your power to make present. So Paul has a lot to say about how the body of Christ can not be divided. Love has to hold the thing together, even though we might not like one another that much love still holds us together. Why is that important you may ask?....Because as Paul teaches us( Paul's letters were written before the Gospels) and as we have been teaching since that time when the Church comes together and when the one residing at the Eucharist in the name of all of us says these same words that Jesus says; we are collectively making memory. We are not simply saying OK let's stop and think back 2000 years ago and lets try to visualize what that must have been like. That's not what's that about at all. We don't even have to care what went on 2000 years ago because it's about what's going on now; "we are making present". Any therefore we use that phrase 'real presence". Not kind of like, sort of memory. Real collective memory!

Look through all of the Eucharistic prayers in the missalettes and look at the number of times it says "remember", "memorial", "make memory"; it's all over the place.

And it's in three stages: we start with memory back then; here is what Jesus did for us then. We bring it into the present; here is what he's doing for us now. And then we look to the future; we hope he comes again. That's the structure of our Liturgy, the Mass. That has been there forever. That's what Holy Thursday is about. Not just what he did back then but the fact of what he has given us. And that's why we parade around, that's why we hold it up symbolically and do all of this adoration. Because of that great gift. And in a sense it's possible because of our ability to make memory. We do the same thing in our families, we come together on special occasions, talk about people; some old and alive, some dead and you embellish it.

What we do in our Liturgy is well thought out for centuries, we're doing what those who have gone before us did.

The institution of the Eucharist is not found anywhere in the gospel of John. There is references in Chapter 6 with feeding the 5000, but what about the last supper? It can't be found there either. But then there is something there that you do not find in Matthew, Mark or Luke; the washing of the feet. Why if we're talking about Passover, memorial, the Eucharist, making present, are we talking about washing feet? In Roman Catholic Tradition there has always been a strong connection between what goes on at the Eucharist and the understanding of our response to that true Christian service. Some would say Eucharist and social justice are hand and glove.

It's not a matter of just presenting yourself up in the Church and making present "Christ in the Eucharist", go home then business as usual. You're suppose to take that real presence and you make it alive in what you do the rest of the day, the week, the year.

So we have this interesting gesture; feet washing. What is it about? Let's look at it.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

"Before the feast of the Passover" , John wants us to recall everything we know about the Passover. Those things, both in it's Jewish context and in it's Christian context, all that is going to be part of the interpretive key for trying to figure out what on earth is going on now.

Jesus comes off his place of honor taking off symbolically his messianic guard, his Son of God guard. He's dressed up now like a servant.

"Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him". That would have been very disturbing. It's disturbing first of all because you never ever touch somebody else's feet. Certainly never in public. In private, if you wanted to show some kind of homage or devotion of some sort, you can do that. That would not be your gesture of preference. That's really low life. All of a sudden when you watch who you believe to be the Messiah and you believe to be the Son of God, all of a sudden on comes the servants towel; now what's going to happen? Our first response would have probably been " no way he's going to wash my feet, I am the servant and you're the master; let's get that straight".

Feet Washing
"He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" This is a question making a statement saying in other words; "Master you are never going to wash my feet"!

Just like the Eucharist, an institution, they didn't understand at the time. Later with the experience of death and resurrection all of this will start to fall in place.

"Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share(inheritance) with me". The word "inheritance in Greek is "Meros". It really is a reference to Salvation. What he's saying is "without the foot washing there is no salvation". What I am doing to you is a saving event. What this is all about is Jesus is symbolically serving his disciples as a servant symbolizing what he ultimately is going to do when he gets on the cross at the crucifixion. That will be his real service, which they will think back at and then this Meros(inheritance) will begin to make sense. That's what this symbolizes.

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. Washing other's feet is not an option.

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you". The gestures Jesus is making is also an attempt to help the disciples understand what their suppose to do after he leaves. Part of the last suppers narrative is Jesus explaining to his disciples; "I'm returning to my Father", they start to panic; "what are we to do?'. Here is how you are to manage when I am gone, you can still have my presence among you when I am gone. How are we to do that? Well in John, they are to do that by washing feet.

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another". The question can be asked; "well how have you loved us?". What did Jesus just do? Jesus just washed their feet and that's what they are expected to do also . They did not like how Jesus came down from the Messianic podium and came down here dressed like them . He became one with them. They didn't like that. That's the difference. Jesus came upon them not as a God, not as a master, as an equal, and then he showed them how they were going to live; as equals (as people who wash one another's feet). Radical equality is how you maintain "my presence" when Jesus is gone. You don't Lord it over one another. We are all in Christ Jesus as Paul said in Galatians. That's what that symbolizes, that's what happens when we all come to the table. We don't come in all different kinds of priority; rich people first, poor people last, smart people, dumb people. We don't do any of that. We just come. Chapter 15 talks about how we are all interconnect, the vine and the branches, one with the other. We're not separate. We depend on one another. We have now seen love in the Eucharist and the foot washing.

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Loving one another is probably the most difficult teaching in all Christianity. How do you live as an equal when everyone wants to be just a notch higher. We have been given the commandment to "love one another as he has loved us". "Fr. Eugene Hensell OSB"

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