Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"'Do You Know What I Have Done for You?' - Living Eucharistic Love"
Homily for
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

21 April 2011
Year A 

St. Clare of Assisi had a powerful experience of the reality of the Eucharist. Clare was a disciple of St Francis of Assisi. She had founded the first convent of Poor Clare nuns at the church of San Damiano, just outside Assisi's city walls. In the year 1240, mercenary armies hired by the Emperor to conquer Italy were terrorizing the whole region. As one of these armies approached Assisi, the town panicked. They had no army of their own, no protection at all. As the soldiers climbed the small hill towards the city gates, they had to pass by Clare's convent. Before they arrived, Clare, who was sick and confined to bed, had herself and her mattress carried outside and placed on top of the convent wall, overlooking the road that the soldiers would have to use. She also had the Eucharist brought out and placed there inside a small, golden container called a pyx. As the soldiers came into view, she prostrated herself before the Lord and prayed for deliverance. The other sisters did the same inside the convent chapel. The soldiers continued to advance.  And then, mysteriously, cries broke out among them. Some of them drew their swords and starting attacking each other. Others started to flee in terror. Soon the entire army was retreating in chaos. In order to fight off the invasion of evil, St. Clare and her sister turned to Christ, present in the Eucharist.

On this holy of nights, we commemorate that moment when Christ, gathered with His Apostles to celebrate the traditional Jewish feast of Passover, gave to us the mystery of the Eucharist – His very Body and Blood – the sacrifice that would be consummated the next day on Calvary. Until now the Jewish people celebrated this feast by roasting a spotless lamb in memory of their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The sprinkled blood upon the doorposts of their ancestors saved them from the angel of death. In this sacred action, the new Passover, Christ Himself is our spotless lamb. The shedding of His blood is what free us from the slavery of sin and wins for us the promised inheritance of heaven. On that most memorable night – the night of the Last Supper – Jesus gave the Apostles and their successors (the bishops and priests) the authority to renew this sacrifice in sacramental form. St. Paul, in our second reading, reminds us of this command – “do this in memory of me.” Together with the Eucharist, Christ gave us the Priesthood – the administrators of sacramental life in the Church. He gave us the priesthood as an extension of Christ Himself – men who would act in His person, to be the face of Christ and manifest His love in world darkened by hatred and sin. It is precisely in the Eucharist Christ proves His power that darkness. In the Eucharist, the light of Christ – His grace, His compassion, His forgiveness, His love and His power – is made manifest to us. This is what St. Clare experienced and what threw those advancing soldiers into such disarray. His presence in the Eucharist was too much for them but St. Clare understood the mystery of His presence in this Blessed Sacrament.

The question we can ask ourselves is why… why would Jesus do something so great, so miraculous for a people who love so little. For that very reason – for love. “Charity is the way to follow God most closely,” says St. Thomas Aquinas. We come to understand Christ better when we are able to practice and live the virtue of charity – for God is Love. This night, in the same way Jesus questioned His disciples, He questions us: “do you realize what I have done for you?” Do we realize the power and love of God that radiates from this altar? As He shows us His love day after day and Sunday after Sunday in the Sacrifice of Mass – in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist – how have we shown our love for Him? How have we served Him? I don’t just mean in serving our parish or reaching out to those in need – I’m talking about how we live, everyday, how do has this love penetrated to the deepest core of our being? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council highlight this point in the document Gaudium et Spes, no. 38: “This love is not something reserved for important matters, but must be exercised above all in the ordinary circumstances of daily life.”

Today the Lord invites us to follow this path of love – because it is in this love, in the Eucharist, Christ fulfills the deepest longing of our hearts – the need to be loved. And that longing is met in the Eucharist. We, therefore, need to make the Eucharist the central focal point of our lives – in the same way St. Clare did. Making the Eucharist the focal point of our lives doesn't mean spending all of our time here in church, though God does call some people to dedicate their lives in such a way. But for most of us, it means simple things, like preparing ourselves before Mass begins that we may be reverent and attentive, receiving Communion regularly and worthily, going to confession beforehand when necessary. It means trying to get to Mass more than just on Sundays. It means including Mass and Holy Communion in birthdays and anniversaries and other special occasions. It means carving a few minutes out of our busy schedules to come and sit with the Lord, to drop by and make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle, where Jesus is always waiting for us to soak up His grace and experience the power of His love.

As we come to receive Him this evening, let us embark upon a pilgrimage during these sacred days, a pilgrimage to Calvary, taking a those first courageous steps toward getting to know Christ – His power and love – in the mystery of the Eucharist.



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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