Homilies for Holy Triduum, 2008

Holy Thursday
March 20. 2008

Tonight we begin a three-day celebration of the Lord’s passover from death to the risen life. These three days are at the center of the entire liturgical year.
Our sacred rituals of this Thursday, Friday and Saturday draw us into the mystery of Christ’s passing over to the risen life. This mystery is not just about Christ’s passing over to a new life. It is also our own mystery of passover.
So it is fitting that we celebrate it carefully and with love.

Christ’s story of passover begins with a Jewish passover meal which we call the Last Supper. Jesus asks us to remember his passing through death to the risen life by repeating his Last Supper meal. Today’s 2nd reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written about 20 years after the Last Supper. It is the oldest account of that meal.
Twice in this short account Jesus says “do this to remember me.” After holding up the bread, he says, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then with the cup, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” This sacred meal of remembering we call the Eucharist.

John’s account of the Last Supper, which we have just heard in the gospel reading, does not include these words with the bread and the cup of wine. Instead, John gives the touching account of Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.
When Jesus has finished the foot washing, he says “If I, your master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet…as I have done for you, you should also do.” This is John’s equivalent of the “Do this in remembrance of me” in Paul’s account.

How then are we to remember Jesus? We are to gather at the sacred meal of Eucharist to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus. But, in addition, we are to be in service to others after the manner of our footwashing master and teacher.
As disciples, faithful to our master and teacher, we shall be lead by Jesus in our passing over death to eternal life.

Good Friday
March 21, 2008

Our human wisdom wants a God who will heal us and make us feel better. In Jesus we are given a God who enters our pain and bears our pain with us.
It is called the foolishness of the cross.

In Jesus, God has taken on our humanity. And more than that, God has taken on our broken humanity to join with the lowly, the outcasts, the sick, the criminals, the dying.
Jesus died on a cross as a condemned criminal – a seemingly failed and scandalous Messiah – to reach out to the darkest and loneliest corners of a sinful world.

In Jesus, God has entered into the depths of our pain with us, and become weak with us in our weakness. In terms of human wisdom, Jesus was a perfect fool. And yet, it is the very power of God.

To this day Jesus wears the scars of crucifixion, which the world interprets as signs of shame. These scars breathe life and hope into all broken and crucified humanity.
Jesus’ human presence among the lost and forgotten declares the holiness of all life. His scarred hands reach out to gather all into God’s loving embrace.

March 23, 2008

The tomb is a place of darkness, silence and death.
On Easter Day the tomb is filled with a light and a word of hope.

The light is Christ who has entered the darkness of silence and death. The light of the Easter Candle represents Christ who banishes the darkness.
We shall light this candle often during the year to remind us of Christ, our Light.

The tomb is a place of silence. Easter has broken the silence of this place of death.
In the Easter story, what were the first words heard in the tomb where the dead Christ was laid?
The angel at the tomb spoke to the women who came just as the dawn was beginning to light the darkness. The angel began by saying, “Do not be afraid.”
The angel went on the say, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.”

“Do not be afraid” is the message of Easter. “Do not be afraid” because Christ has defeated death. “Do not be afraid” because the dark night is over. “Do not be afraid” because God never abandons us, but joins us in all our difficulties.

The gospel story tells us that as the women ran from the tomb to tell the apostles what the angel had said they were both joyful and fearful.
Jesus met them on the way to reassure them by repeating the words of the angel.
He said, “Do not be afraid.”

On this Easter Day, Jesus meets us as we go our way with our doubts and fears. He repeats the words that break the silence of the tomb.
“Do not be afraid,” he says.