Holy Thursday, 2 April 2015
Mass of the Lord’s Supper
St. Macartan’s Cathedral 7.30pm
My dear friends,
One morning a deer hound set off chasing a magnificent buck. Some minutes into the chase a fox crossed the path and the hound veered off to chase the fox. A little later a rabbit crossed the path and the hound was soon baying after the rabbit. Then a squirrel crossed the path and the dog was soon pounding after him. Finally a field mouse crossed the path and the hound chased it into its burrow. The deer hound had begun chasing a great buck and wound up watching a mouse hole. I suppose the moral of the story is that expectations which set out with such promise and optimism can have a very sobering conclusion and not least among the causes can be our own greed, or fickleness or blindness.
Most outings begin with great expectations but not all parties end in bliss. What we call the Last Supper was no exception. It was to be a celebration of the Paschal Meal, commemorating the liberation of the people of Israel from Egypt. There is treachery in the room and it does not all belong to the company treasurer who will later be side tracked into the company of the night. Enemies have closed in and are ready to pounce. Pilate’s wife is not the only one to have bad dreams. There is misunderstanding and confusion and hurt in the room. A voice tells them “You do not understand what I am doing now. Later you will understand.”
The scene in the Upper Room is not your usual friendly night out. There is talk of an impending death and the fact that there is a traitor in the room. There is no frivolity, no high jinks. The guests at the table end up having an argument among themselves about who was the greatest. Is it any wonder that the host eventually slipped away on his own into the night and into the garden to sip a cup of grief on his own. When his companions caught up with him we are told they fall asleep. We can all blush when we recall how our weaknesses destroyed social occasions on others as well as messing up our own lives. We bring all of ourselves good and bad to parties, often to our cost.
But it is not all doom and gloom. In the midst of all the rejection and disenchantment Jesus stayed faithful to the Father’s Mission and never lost sight of the new dispensation he brought with him. The final days and hours of his life were spent courageously capping and finalising his message and his mission in what he said and did and in the precious heritage he was to pass on to his still-confused followers.
We are not always at our worst when we are on our knees. Jesus himself showed us that. He got on his knees and demonstrated the parable of the kingdom. In our kingdom the one who ministers is master; the king is servant. Anything which is oppressive belongs to the creed of power and not his gospel of love. What he did on his knees was in harmony with what he did at table. He gave them the costliest gift he could give – himself! This was to be the new memorial occasion which was to be the nourishing food of the new kingdom of God. He gave them bread and wine to be his body and blood; he gave them himself.
Later, they would understand.
The magnificent buck is still at loose and the little field mouse is still cowering in his burrow, taking no risks. The Last Supper was not a tragedy but the resolution of a tragedy. Jesus did not camouflage the difficulties of his own story. He gave us a power-filled message that our tainted humanity does not have to be denied to be accepted. In its fragility it is uplifted and transformed by the love of God.
There will be times when we will all feel sore and hurt and wounded. There will be times when we will be alone in the garden of grief. The Lord has shown us that we can come through. He invites us to copy what he has done. If we wash each other’s feet, we can give nourishment and hope to one another. We can be bread for others; we can be life. In being the servant we can become masters of ourselves. Let’s do it.
+Liam S. MacDaid
2 April 2015