presence of God
Holy Thursday 2018
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: Mar 29 2018
The presence of someone we love matters. We desire to be with, to be present with those we love. This is why we experience grief when a loved one lives far away, or when they move away, or most painfully when a loved one dies. We grieve the lack of their presence with us. The missing presence of a loved one is difficult.
Our God grieves. Our God loves us in a way we can barely grasp. So, this God wants to be with us, in our presence. Longs to be near to us. Jesus is God’s presence near us in this life, in our human history. But, Jesus also desired a way to remain present to us after his death and resurrection. Tonight on this Mass of the Lord’s Supper we recall and celebrate two ways in which the continued presence of Jesus is available to us. The Eucharist and the Priesthood.
In the Eucharist we speak of the Real Presence. In bread and wine, Jesus is Sacramentally present to us. When we receive Holy Communion, Jesus is coming to us, to be present with and in us. Simply, Jesus loves you, wants to be with you, in the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament we are able to experience that presence of Jesus.
In the Priesthood, it is in a normal man, a sinful and failed human being like all of us, that Jesus is present to offer teaching, forgiveness, grace. We speak of the priest as “in persona Christi”. In the person of Christ. In the Sacraments the priest stands there in the person of Christ bringing grace. When people come to a priest, to ask him to pray for them, ask him to bless something or someone, to share a personal struggle, they are coming to meet Jesus. When they come to a priest they want to be blessed by Jesus, to hear a word from Jesus, to be forgiven by Jesus, to be received by the mercy of Jesus. We priests are humanly speaking so inadequate to this mission.
Story of St. John Chrysostom. He was an impressive man and the people of the local church wanted him to become a priest. He initially tried to hide from them. He felt completely inadequate to be a priest, to the important role of the priest. His reluctance was probably wise as he understood the importance of the priest in being the presence of Jesus for people. But, just as Jesus can be present to us in bread and wine, Jesus can come to us through a weak, sinful man.
The Gospel for this Mass of the Lord’s Supper is John’s account of the Last Supper and includes the Washing of the Feet. We all need to allow Jesus to teach, to heal, to forgive, to embrace us. Allow Jesus to wash your feet. But, this example he gives is for all of us. We are to be ready to wash each other’s feet. Bring kindness, truth, forgiveness, healing, gentleness, encouragement to one another. Stand in for Jesus. Be with others as Jesus would be with them. How would Jesus be with that person in front of you? You are to take the place of Jesus.
Tonight we celebrate the presence of Jesus. In the Eucharist and in the Priesthood. We are challenged to help Jesus to be present to others through us, through our words, our actions. Washing their feet. This presence of Jesus is God’s love for us. A God who grieves for us, who longs to be with us. Allow God to be with you.