Jerusalem Patriarch's Holy Thursday Homily

«Time stops and we touch eternity in this ‘Sacrament of Love'»

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Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on Holy Thursday. Here is the text of his Homily:

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“To Love to the End”

Excellencies, and dear friends,

Dear priests, the Church today commemorates the institution of the priesthood.  And to all of you, on behalf of the Church of Jerusalem, I would like to express our gratitude.  This is your day! I wish you a happy and blessed Holy Feast.

Our celebration reveals the full depth of the Mystery announced today, fulfilled on Friday, celebrated in every Eucharist, and cannot be separate from the sign of the washing of the feet.

Today, in this Year of Consecrated Life, we celebrate the sacrament of the love of Jesus for all of us, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, the faithful, and all of humanity.  A love without limits, and “he loved them to the end.”(Jn 13,1)

Such is the love that Jesus taught us by his example, and this is the way we must follow. “No servant is greater than his master” (Jn 15: 19-20).

“Jesus fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power” (Jn 13:3), “while having the power,  he humbled himself and took the form of a slave, washing the feet of his disciples.(Phil 2:7-8)  This gesture is difficult to understand and even more difficult to imitate.

So when he had washed their feet, Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you realize what I have done for you?”  Without waiting for an answer, he continued: “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”(Jn 13:12-15)

Jesus shows us the way of the ultimate gift of the One who is not afraid to bend down to touch his brother in the depth of his poverty.  This is a narrow and costly path.  It is what we, priests have chosen and that could easily be forgotten when seeking fame and vainglory.   Pope Francis recently reminded us of the ‘temptation of comfort” and to “beware of getting too comfortable!  When we are comfortable, it is easy to forget other people.”  Christ needs us even our brothers, more than ever!

Dear brothers and sisters, aware that we are sinners in our imperfect love and lack of charity, let us trust in Divine Mercy and be washed by Christ to experience the joy of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Let us implore God’s forgiveness in an act of truth and humility.  It is precisely in this return to God, that brings us back to the relationship of love and reciprocity with our Savior.

Our two Palestinian holy women, Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Mariam Baouardy, who will be canonized on May 17, understood and led a life of prayer, humility and penance, radiating joy and love.

In this world ravaged by wars, divisions, and suffering, and the increasing number of our brothers and sisters seeking refuge in our country, we need to bend down and reach out to them: to dry the many tears and console their broken hearts.  As we follow our Master, let us be his gentle servants.

Not far from here, in the Upper Room, Jesus, broke bread and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”(Lk 22:19)  He invites us to act in Him and through Him, by the gift of ourselves to our brothers.  In a piece of bread, Jesus totally gives himself, being vulnerable to free us.  This is God’s incredible love for us that he came to be one with us.

At every celebration of the Eucharist, we witness the same and only sacrifice that took place on the Cross two thousand years ago, and we continue to do in the faith “until he comes”(1 Cor 11, 26).

Time stops and we touch eternity in this “Sacrament of Love”.  A love without limits, a love that is not afraid to give of oneself at the risk of being mocked, trampled, humiliated, crucified, a love that like bread is given to “eat”, the love of one who gives himself at the risk of losing one’s own life.

There is no shortage of witnesses to this humiliated Love.  In recent times, we have had the harrowing example of Iraqi and Syrian Christians who, one night, were forced to leave and take a journey not knowing where to go, with only the clothes they had on their backs, and an unshakeable faith in the hearts.  These Arab Christians, disciples of Jesus, refused to deny Christ and for Him, gave up everything.  They are true witnesses of our faith today.  We go back to the roots of the first community, devoted to prayer, to the breaking of bread and the exercise of charity.

Brothers and sisters from around the world, we hear in them the voice of Christ who calls us, listen to Jerusalem groaning, and we extend our hands to help Christians of the Middle East to come down from the Cross, which self-interest and greed have persecuted them and nailed them there.

Let us be faithful to the One who is with us “all the days until the end of time”(Mt 28:20), and pray for one another.

Let us pray in a special way:-

for priests and consecrated men and women invited to give everything to follow the master,

for families called to be homes of love and sources of vocations,

for all Christians of the Holy Land, in communion with our ancestors and their sacrifices,

and for those who are in prison because of their fidelity to their brothers and their faith.

With our two future holy Arab and Palestinian saints, Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine leading us on the narrow way of holiness, taking us by the hand with the Virgin Mary, they will guide us towards the heavenly light of the Risen One.  Amen

+Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

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