Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper / Misa vespertina de la Cena del Señor (Homily / Homilía)
April 13, 2017 7:00 pm · Father Sergio Muñoz Fita
Ashes on the head and water on the feet. The path of Lent unfolds between these two powerful, moving rituals. A long and tiring road that begins inside our own heads and ends at the feet of others.
These forty-four days, from Ash Wednesday until this evening, are not nearly long enough for us to make this journey – Lent is a sample, a metaphor, a "reduction to scale”- of the lifetime journey from self to others.
Repentance and service: The Church entrusts to the ashes and water rather than to words, the preaching of these two great commands. There isn’t a believer who is not moved by the power of these two preachings. Other preaching, expressed in words, however eloquent, may soon be forgotten, but these symbols speak a language that pierces the human heart and endures the passing of time.
It is difficult to escape the force of those feathery, dusty ashes that fell with the violence of icy hail on our heads this Ash Wednesday, growing into a deafening hammering of the divine call to the only thing that matters: “Repent and believe in the Gospel! ". Simple ashes that must always come from olive trees blessed on the previous Palm Sunday intimately connect us to that first Palm Sunday: to the welcoming of Christ in our lives, to the recognition of His sovereign Kingship in our hearts, to the hope of coming at last to the Jerusalem of Heaven. If we fail to see this, all becomes empty words, false starts on a path to true conversion.
The strength and teaching of these ashes reaches long beyond the moment we brush off those last earthy specks the next morning.
In the same way, the murmur of falling water remains in memory, almost in slow motion, in the basin of the Master. It is the oldest preaching we can remember. As children, we heard it with our eyes and ears full of wonder. One preaching, every Holy Thursday, spoken in 12 identical and yet unique phrases, rich in tenderness, simple in rhetoric: the offering of a foot, the caressing of water, the touch of a towel, the seal of a kiss. A strange preaching because it has been spoken without words to twelve living symbols of broken humanity by a man whom we worship in the Consecrated Host, on our knees and in silence.
These are the two signs offered by our Mother Church at the beginning and at the end of Lent. The ash blazes on our foreheads as if it had just erupted from a volcano. To temper its heat, we look for the water that we shall pour on the feet of others. Repentance and service, train tracks on which the path of our return home must slide. Ashes and water, basic ingredients of a complete conversion that, in the end, desires to overtake us from head to toe.
Christ at our feet. God girded over the sufferings of men. A foreshadowing of the Passion in the silence and hearts of the disciples. And in that tragedy, a gift, a man who gives himself, a God who leaves and remains. A sacrifice that is offered and, simultaneously renewed.
Today, from the bottom up – that is the perspective of Jesus kneeling before the Apostles – we prostrate ourselves before the Eucharist. We love him, and we, too, kiss his feet. At his feet, we likewise atone for the offenses against this Sacrament: for so many bad communions -sacrilegious, distracted, lukewarm; for so much absentmindedness; for so many visits that never took place; for seeking the water of the world and not the Source that flows and runs from this Bread of Life.
We ask you, forgive us, Lord.
And we ask, we pray, to let ourselves be washed by you, not only our feet, but also our hands and our head, and our whole soul. We pray for your priests, and for the Christians who die when they come to the Church to celebrate you and to receive you – just as it happened last Sunday. Have mercy on us all.
Ashes, water, consecrated bread, God on His knees and men redeemed. Conversion and service. Action and contemplation.
Mother Mary, help us to listen in silence and to live each day everything that your sacrificed Son teaches us – with his venerable and simple teaching of heaven- in today’s holy Mass. Amen.