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Holy Thursday Mass 2012


Homily by Abbot Peter McCarthy: 4-05-2012


Enough. These few words are enough.

If not these words, this breath.

If not this breath, this sitting here (together).

This opening to the life

We have refused

Again and again

Until now.

Until now.

The words, my brothers & sisters, are from the contemporary American poet David Whyte and for me they speak of the essential importance of memorial feasts. As the Lord says to Moses & all Israel in our first reading from Exodus this afternoon:

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.”

And so our Jewish sisters & brothers celebrate these days of Passover year after year…so they will not forget the depth of Life & Freedom offered them again & again… And yes, refused again & again – until now – until this Passover?

And so this afternoon we celebrate once again our memorial feast; Each Holy Thursday calls us to re–member ; to retrieve; to pull together again what we are always forgetting. That Mystery held for ages in the heart of God and now revealed in our own day, writes St. Paul:

“The mystery is Christ in you; your hope of glory.

It is what God is doing to us in Jesus; what he is doing to our world.  This is what we have refused again & again to remember – until now – until this Holy Thursday when we tell once again the story – that -.  Jesus is God remembering in human flesh.

Today’s gospel says:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God.”

So what did Jesus do with this knowledge; this remembering?

“He got up from the table, removed his outer garment… He then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet…”

This is what God is doing to us in Jesus.  This is what we forget; what we have refused again and again… That the Spiritual Journey is not about God confirming my plans for the future; or bringing me the feelings I want to feel; or even affirming my healthy identity! The Spiritual Journey is about being washed clean in the life blood and human tears of Jesus of Nazareth. Being cleansed in God’s passionate love and cracked open to New Life.  And I have no idea how this will feel in the end or whether my own personal agenda will have any reality at all in this process (we call salvation). I only have the words of Jesus:

“As the scripture has said; out of the believer’s heart shall flow fountains of living water.’


And so these sacred three days are brimming over with living water: from the washing of the disciples feet tonight; to the water bleeding from the pierced heart of the dead Christ tomorrow; to the river flowing down from the right side of the temple (of the body of the Risen Lord ) this Easter Sunday.

As we witness the memorial this afternoon of Jesus washing his disciples, let us along with Peter, let go of all our self-centered agendas and preoccupations; and let us simply

Open to the life

We have refused

Again and again

Until now.

Until now.


“Then, Lord, said Simon Peter, wash not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!”


and as we re-enact our Memorial Feast this Holy Thursday let us remember anyone we have placed on the hard, sterile soil of our forgetting this past year; a brother in community, a spouse, or son or daughter, or perhaps even ourselves…

“If I then, the Lord and master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

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