Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sermon Maundy Thursday 2017

Exodus 12: 1-4 [5-10] 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Things surely couldn’t be going according to plan. To be sure, their leader had some great ideas, but he was so impractical. He wasn’t appealing to the masses. The popularity figures were far too low. The opposition was too strong. This was a time for pragmatic leadership, not naïve idealism. Compromises needed to be made in the short term in order to get to the long term goal.
It’s all very well talking about loving people, but when it comes to loving your enemies, that’s going too far. People aren’t ready for that. No, the enemies have to be got out of the way first, then we can love whoever is left. Whoever is on our side.
Of course, we can keep our leader, this Jesus, as a figurehead. He has some great ideas after all. But we need some down to earth people to put them into practice, to know what is doable and what isn’t. What Jesus doesn’t seem to realise is that politics is the art of the possible. So, if we can put him to one side, keep him as a figurehead, we can form a focus group to prioritise what is achievable. As for the rest, well, there’s no harm in it remaining an ideal, an aspiration.
We don’t know of course what was going through the mind of Judas Iscariot when he decided to betray Jesus. Maybe something like that. All the disciples were puzzled, confused and downcast. Jesus had entered Jerusalem in triumph only a few days before, as though he were about to overthrow the Romans and restore the Kingdom of David. Hadn’t that been what they all thought? They were still pulling bits of palm frond out of their sandals to remind them. But now he was talking about his death, saying farewell, telling them they will all fail. What kind of talk is that for a leader?
But Jesus knows the great truth that St Paul states in 1 Corinthians, that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
And so tonight, as he says farewell, Jesus gives two great gifts that show the wisdom and strength of God in things that the world will always consider foolish and weak. He gives the Eucharist, his flesh and blood for the life of the world under the form of bread and wine. And he gives the great commandment, love one another, as I have loved you, even to laying down your life.
The Eucharist has always attracted scorn and indifference, from the very first moment that Jesus first disclosed this great secret in the synagogue at Capernaum, as is related in John Chapter 6. From that day to this there have always been those who have demanded to know, “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Indeed in the Eucharist Jesus makes himself utterly weak and helpless, he gives himself into our hands just as he was given into the hands of sinners in that dark night in Gethsemane.
But to those who know Jesus the small Host, the few drops from the chalice, convey a strength that is stronger than anything in the world. Sinners become saints, the dying receive the food of eternal life, prisoners in dark and terrible concentration camps ardently desire the bread that has sustained martyrs down the centuries.
And, living from the food of the Eucharist, we are to love one another. How foolish it is to take the lowest place, to seek to be the slave of all. How weak to seek out and love the most abandoned, the most wretched, those whom the world despises and casts aside. But that is how the people of the Eucharist live, those who, by receiving these gifts, have been let in on the secret of eternal life.

Do not be afraid to be foolish or weak in the eyes of the world, for the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. By living from these two great gifts, the Eucharist and the commandment of love, we show the world not ourselves, but Christ, who tonight freely enters into his passion. And these two great gifts will proclaim, to the end of time, what he is about.

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