Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 14, 2022
What is one of the most important words in the Catholic faith?
Covenant. But it is also one that many do not really think about often. It is actually a concept rooted in our Jewish heritage, found throughout the Old Testament. Throughout salvation history, there has been a series of covenants.
After Noah’s Ark there was the covenant established by God with all humanity symbolized in the rainbow. Then there was the covenant with Abraham, symbolized by circumcision. God establishing a relationship with a particular people.
Later there was the covenant established through Moses. Rooted in the Law. Celebrated in the yearly Passover meal that Jesus celebrated at his Last Supper.
Covenant is the word we use to describe the marriage of a Catholic in the church. Spouses make the vows to be faithful “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”
As we celebrate the Eucharist, we are celebrating the New Covenant, listen how often we hear that word, Covenant.
The best definition of Covenant that I have heard is Covenant is “the promise to remain.” In Jesus, God came among us to make it clear that God will remain with us. That even in our death, God remains with us. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are recalling this Covenant, God’s promise to remain. In simple bread and wine, we have the Real Presence of Jesus.
In Jesus, God is saying to you and to me, I will remain with you, I will not abandon you. What a great gift to have someone who promises to remain with us in good and bad.
At this Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday we always listen to the Last Supper account from the Gospel of John. It is very different from the other Gospels. The main focus is Jesus getting down to wash the feet of his disciples. In fact, perhaps the best symbol of Christianity is the towel. A model of humble service.
Within our families, within our church, the towel of humble service is the key to healthy families and a healthy church. Sometimes in cartoons we see God sending down lightening bolts to strike the evil down. Sometimes someone who has been away from church for a long time will joke about being struck by lightning. But, a truer image of God is God getting down on his knees with a towel to wash away our hurts and pains.
Our world promotes domination, power over others, it is seen time and again in wars between nations, at this time with Russia invading the Ukraine. Within families we also see this when violence and force is used to have control over a spouse.
The way of Jesus is reflected in Holy Thursday, the simple towel of humble service. You could call this the Holy Thursday revolution. Imagine what a difference it would make if parents and spouses held towels instead of wanting control and domination. Imagine if priests held towels of humble service rather than control and domination. Imagine if humanity embraced the humble service of the towel rather than the way of force and violence.
On this Holy Thursday, we celebrate the new covenant, God’s promise to remain. Then we are offered the towel of humble service to guide all of our relationships.
One of the greatest gifts you can offer to another person, is what God offers to us, the promise to remain, in good and bad.