By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Maundy Thursday 18 April 2019
The Christian story changes gear as Jesus gathers his disciples in the Upper Room before Passover, the festival in which Jews celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Jesus knew that his time has come when he will reveal his Father’s glory. He rose from the table, takes off his outer garments representing divine glory, and puts on the towel of the slave and washes his apostles feet. Tonight, kneeling before us he washes our dirty feet so that we might be admitted to God’s heavenly banquet. He is teaching his Church that servant leadership is the model through which they must listen to his voice and gain inspiration to serve those they are called to lead.
This is the service of God’s love, the power that is the turning point of the whole universe. The writer Dante discovered this turning point at the end of his journey. He would not understand it, or even imagine it; all he could do was abandon himself to it and let it do its work in him. None of us can grasp Jesus’ spiritual truth with our minds. Trying to do that is like walking round the outside of an older church in order to see and understand the patterns, colours and messages of stained-glass windows. These things can only be seen from the inside with the light shining in from the outside. Notre Dame cathedral windows can now be seen from the outside because light fills the roofless building.
Jesus love is known when we abandon ourselves to it, and he calls his disciples ‘little children.’ We are his spiritual children, the offspring of the marriage between heaven and earth that Jesus consummated with his bride the Church. Almost every human being understands that loving each other is essential to the well being of any society. Love is indeed love, but Jesus tells his disciples to love one another as I have loved you. This is the difference.
He loves his disciples because he is the agent of the Father’s love. He shows us that God is not remote from us, too distant or too great to be bothered with the trifles of our lives. We are worthy of God’s love. God’s love is not some comic strip power before which we must shrink away. It is the power that purifies and heals.
We are to offer this love to others because Jesus calls us to be the agents of the agent of God. And what greater love can we show than emulate Jesus in praying and working for the salvation of those we are called to love. This love does not control or manipulate others. It is the love that serves and leads others to discover it for themselves.
The marriage between heaven and earth was sealed on the Cross of Jesus and made visible when Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus anticipated this marriage during that Last Supper when he took bread and broke it; when he took the cup and blessed it saying, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ To re-member is to bring together, to bring into union; to dis-member is to tear apart.
Each time we come to mass, we participate in the unity between heaven and earth. We do so because in taking, blessing, breaking and sharing the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus, the love of God, which is nothing other than the Holy Spirit, changes their substance into the Body and Blood of the Lord, making present in the sacrament the same sacrifice that is fulfilled on the cross. (Benedict XVI, Corpus Christi 2010.)
When we receive the sacrament we are immersed in the love of Jesus and so our only response must be to live as faithful agents of the agent of God and radiate his love that will never end.
Monsignor Entwistle was the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.