Readings: Exodus 12.1-8,11-14; Psalm 116; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-15 (See the readings at usccb.org)
Text of the homily (please excuse the bad English! ;-))
Every once in a while someone comes along who, int he sight of pretty much everyone around the world, it is abundantly obvious that there is something special about them. One such person was a little old nun, not even 5 feet tall, whose religious name was Teresa – Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She very famously gathered together a group of people who serve the poor and the forgotten, who’ve spread to many places (100s of homes), not just in Calcutta but all over the world.
When she was alive, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta had written and spoken about her experiences: of how she received her call to serve the poor. And there’s one thread that runs throughout all of it. She received her call, her energy, her passion, her love – from Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist – this holy Communion – is Jesus, our God, himself. It is Jesus, who died and rose again, who re-presents that very mystery before our eyes under the simple, humble appearance of food and drink. The Eucharist is Jesus, who created all things and all people; who loves all people so dearly that he gave his life for them.
And so the very same Power that inspired Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and countless Christians up and down the centuries is here today! The Eucharist that we are sharing today and at each Mass is the same Eucharist that Jesus shared at the Last Supper. It’s the same Eucharist that Pope Francis offered today in a juvenile prison in Rome. It’s the same Eucharist that’s being offered at our cathedral in Saskatoon and throughout our diocese and throughout the world and throughout history.
The same Jesus who walked the earth comes here today. The same Jesus who called his disciples to follow him, calls you and me today.
The Eucharist feeds us. And, as it did for Blessed Teresa, the Eucharist gives us our mission.
Now what we do here at each Mass could be thought of in a very similar way to the action of our bodies when we breathe. When we breathe we are filled with the life-giving oxygen, we breathe out what’s bad, and we get the energy to truly live. So also here: we receive life in the Person of Jesus himself, who is our God. We leave behind all that hinders us from following him. And by that strength we are to go out into our world, into our community, into our families, and we are to share this Jesus through our service.
Now with that in mind, Pope Francis (as he’s been wont to do over the past few weeks) said something earlier this week that should completely haunt us – challenge us – in a good way. He said on Twitter, (and I quote): “Being with Jesus demands that we go out from ourselves, and from living a tired and habitual faith.”
We are with Jesus in the Eucharist. He is in us; we are in him. And “Being with Jesus demands” – listen to that word! – “demands that we go out from ourselves, and from living a tired and habitual faith.” Again: words that should haunt us (in a good way).
This happens when we serve. This happens when we share this Jesus whom we’ve been given with others.
I think we all have a good idea how much our world needs Jesus, and his grace. We know full well how much we all need Jesus, who alone is our joy and our salvation.
For example: It should strike us to the core of our being that the statistics in Canada show that around 2/3 of Catholics in Canada attend Mass less than once per month (and we’re obliged to go every week). And I don’t mean any judgement in this – there can be very good reasons for missing Mass. Probably the most common would be if we’re sick or caring for someone that’s sick, and a number of other very important reasons, so I give people the benefit of the doubt. But the reality is in our country that a significant number of people are regularly missing out on this indescribable gift.
And it should strike us to the core of our being that there are people who live below the poverty line, even in our own community, and throughout this nation that’s so affluent in so many ways. I think Pope Francis, following Jesus Christ, is challenging us in new way in this.
It should strike us to the core of our being that there are so many other issues in our society – we could think of something as important as the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, that is constantly under attack.
Most of all, it should strike us to the core of our being that Jesus has provided himself as the Way out of sin; as the One who brings true joy: and he has invited all of us to take him up on this incredible gift!
Jesus, given in the Eucharist, is the answer to the longing of the human heart! Jesus is the “good news of great joy for all people” that lasts through this life and into eternity. Jesus is life! Jesus is God, made flesh, who at every Mass becomes our Food for the journey! And as he did for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, so also he gives us our marching orders: our mission. Our mission is given so clearly in the gospel at the last supper that we just heard – that as he has served us, so also we must serve others and be conduits for the hope that is given only in Jesus.
Now I recognize that none of the disciples who were at that last supper were perfect. We heard a little bit more from St. Peter today, and boy, I love hearing from St. Peter, because quite frankly – I can identify with him in some ways! They weren’t perfect. But they allowed God’s grace to work in them. They followed Jesus, and the world has never been the same.
Who will be the apostles of our day? Who will be the apostles of our community? Who will be the missionaries here today? For the need is truly great. If it’s not me and you, then who’s it going to be?
We are all here at this time and this place in history because God wants to bring his life to the world through you and me. And he gives us this life, this strength, through this Food for our journey: through the Eucharist, which is himself.
May we worship and receive the Eucharist in joy, and take up in an ever new way this incredible mission. For he says: “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
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