My Dear Sisters and Brothers! On this night we come together to enter the Most Sacred time of the Paschal Triduum, like that night in Jerusalem, when our Blessed Lord gathered his Apostles to celebrate the first Eucharist. He enabled them, and the generations of bishops and priests, to continue it through the ages to come. It wasn’t a spontaneous event though. In fact, as we read in the Gospel of St Luke, Jesus said: “I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Christ thought it through. He planned it. He treasured it in his heart first. That meal in the Upper Room, on that night before his arrest, was planned and desired by Jesus as a means of togetherness and unity, a means of establishing and preserving the new community, the Church.
When our Oblate Founder St Eugene de Mazenod committed himself to evangelising the post-revolutionary France he ‘invented’ a prayer called Oraison. In order to have an Oraison three things are needed: the Blessed Sacrament, at least two people and silence. For 200 hundred years the Missionary Oblates day in and day out have been praying it not only to build their communities but also to be a quiet reminder to the whole Church that a Christian is the person who loves worshiping the Lord while being together with others. “I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you.” These words of the Lord from the chant before the Gospel capture the essence of the Eucharist. Our relationship with God, which is always personal, intimate and vulnerable, we share with others when we come together. At the moment of such a profound union with Christ when we hear his Word and receive Holy Communion we allow others to be part of our communion with the Lord Jesus.
In our society which is so divided, which keeps searching for a means to be united, in the Church we celebrate our union with each other through the sacramental presence of the Lord Jesus.
I would like to encourage you when you are faced with the statement that it is not necessary to go to church, that one can pray on his own, to share with those who say that your joy, your passion, your appreciation for being given the blessing of worshipping at least once a week with other Christians.
In a few minutes we will have a simple but profound gesture of washing of the feet; the gesture which is also a prophetic insight which we offer to our fellow Australians. It is about how we deal with sin, human weakness etc. When I hear or read another story of a person who has fallen out of grace, about someone who is branded as disgraced it appears to me that these days we throw a party to celebrate someone’s fall; as if it made us feel better when we see the moral downfall of another human being. What Jesus offers us in the scene of the washing of the feet is a new way of dealing with sins of others. We are called to be servants of those who sin in a humble way, in a way that doesn’t humiliate a sinner but returns their lost dignity. Jesus spoke of a bath which is a symbol of baptism: “You too are clean” he said. So “we should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily.” How beneficial it is when fellow Christians by their prayers, their example and their kindness, wash the feet of their brothers and sisters who in their eagerness for Jesus have been slowed down by sin. Then the Church picks up her pace in the race towards the glorious day of the Lord’s return.