Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Holy Thursday; Live-streamed Mass (Coronavirus Crisis)

Holy Thursday
Live-Streamed Mass (Coronavirus Crisis)
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen

April 9, 2020

Throughout history, many revolutions and movements have come and gone. Often they are led by people who know the art of attracting others to their cause; the art of capturing popular opinion; but also the art of causing fear and creating chaos. Such leaders can be manipulative, relentless, and ruthless in the pursuit of their goals.

In the Upper Room, where Jesus is gathered with his Apostles, something much greater than a revolution or a movement is underway. It is Jesus’ hour, the hour for the ultimate revolution to be unleashed, a revolution that will bring about the decisive triumph of divine grace over sin, of divine love over human hatred, of life over death. This is the pivotal moment, the deciding hour, of human history itself.

But there are no fiery speeches, no attempt to manipulate public opinion, no hint of ruthlessness, no sign of a self-promoting leader…quite the opposite. Jesus, meek and mild, is hidden away in an upper room, to celebrate the Passover, indeed, to transform it forever from an earthly deliverance to a heavenly deliverance. Jesus is there with his closest followers, including Judas, his betrayer. Scripture says of Jesus: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” Friends, even in this difficult time, perhaps especially in this difficult time, Jesus claims us as his own and he loves us to the very end…but what does that mean?

Love to the End of Jesus’ Earthly Life 

Let us not understand the Gospel words, “love to the very end”, sentimentally, as if they were the lyrics to a popular love song. Jesus’ love is neither cheap nor fleeting nor still less merely emotional. No, it’s a love that penetrates to the core of our being and has the power to change us.

So, to begin with, “love to the end” means Jesus loved us maximally, even unto death. When at the Last Supper Jesus stooped down and washed the feet of his Apostles, he personified, not a self-seeking love, but an utterly generous and self-giving love, the love of God’s only Son, who emptied himself, who became like a slave – the Lord who would cleanse us from our sins by his death on the Cross.

Tomorrow, when you listen reverently to the account of Jesus’ suffering and death, remember that you belong to Jesus as the result of your Baptism; remember that Jesus loved you to the very end; that he poured out his life for you; remember, too, those who in these days practice a heroic love, and in God’s grace, may we strive to love and serve those most in need…love to the end!

Love to the End of Our Lives 

So, if “love to the end” means that Jesus offered himself totally, even unto death, it also means that, even now, Jesus knows us, loves us, and walks with us through every moment of our earthly lives, right up to the moment of death. How does the Lord accompany us along the way? The answer to that question was brought home to me vividly, a few weeks ago, when I gave my father Holy Communion for the very last time. Jesus was truly present to my dad as “food for the journey” (viaticum), helping him to take the all-important step from time to eternity.

It is through the Eucharist that Jesus remains with us throughout our lives. It has been that way since the very beginning of the Church. In tonight’s 2nd reading, St. Paul confirms that the earliest Christian communities celebrated the Eucharist, re-enacting that moment when Jesus blessed and broke bread, saying: “This is my Body, given for you”; and likewise, blessed wine saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my Blood” – adding, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Thus bread became Christ’s Body, offered on the Cross; wine, his Blood, poured out for the forgiveness of our sins, poured out to ratify a new relationship of love between God and his people.

When we gather for Eucharist, we do not merely recall what Jesus did to save us. Rather, Jesus himself, and his sacrifice of love become present anew for us, for our benefit, to help us in the present moment and in every circumstance of life, until that final moment when we go home to God. These days, when we are unable to open our churches due to the pandemic, we hunger and thirst for the Eucharist; we long to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood. Let us humbly ask to be spiritually united with Jesus until that day (and may it be soon) when we can be together for Holy Mass and receive this most holy Sacrament. Until then, let our hunger for the Eucharist prompt us to love the Mass more dearly, and to resolve to be present in person for the Eucharist, Sunday after Sunday, even as we give thanks for our priests whose very lives are defined by the Eucharist. Let us pray this night for our priests who bring us Jesus in Word and Sacrament, our priests who, in the charity of Christ, walk with us throughout our lives.

Love to the End: The Goal of Our Lives 

There is yet another way to understand the words, “love to the end” and it’s this: Jesus claims us as his own and guides to the fulfillment of the goal, the purpose for which we were created, namely, our salvation, eternal happiness. We were created not merely to be comfortable or successful or respectable; no, our hearts are restless, incomplete, searching – until they discover and share fully that love which exceeds every other love, that love who is God himself. God loves us so much that he saved us from sin and opened the gates of heaven by his Son’s death and resurrection … love to the end!

In times like these, when fear and uncertainty, suffering and death, are all around us, it may be difficult for us to focus on much more than our immediate problems. Yet, if day by day we entrust our lives to the Eucharistic Lord, and resolve to walk with him as he walks with us, we will discover amid life’s problems, suffering, misunderstanding, and chaos, that the vision of life eternal in heaven, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. May that vision take hold of us and guide us to participate, even now, as fully as possible in the mercies and graces offered us in the Sacraments, until that day when, having died with Christ, we shall reign with him in heaven. May God bless you and keep you always in his love.

 

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.