Sermon for Holy Thursday
One of my favorite parts of the rite of Ordination of priests is definitively the chant “jam non dicam” which takes place toward the very end of the ceremony. It expresses in an admirable Gregorian melody, full of unction and tenderness, the feelings of the Heart of Jesus when He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It was the first Ordination ever done, the day before His Passion.
“ Jam non dicam vos servos, quia servus nescit quid faciat dominus ejus. Vos autem dixi amicos. – I will not now call you servants: for the servant knows not what his lord does. But I have called you friends!”
Could there be more beautiful words for a new priest to hear on the day of his Ordination? After many years of preparation, most of the time filled with the joy given in the service of the Lord, sometimes in the darkness and in the midst of streams of doubt, discouragement and temptation, he has the consolation to hear his Lord calling him: “my friend!” At this time, the trials of the seminary are already far behind him, and the prospect of his future task does not even phase him. He simply enjoys this very moment when Jesus makes him one of His priests and calls him His friend.
There is a tradition in the seminary: on the day of his tonsure, the seminarian receives a little crucifix. I remember our good Father Gaudray, spiritual director in our seminary of Wigratzbad, who used to repeat many times – I guess he still continues to say this now – that it is a good tradition, but there is another one that we can begin. We can give to the new priest, on the day of his Ordination, a great crucifix, because the cross he will have to carry now is much bigger than the cross he had to carry in the seminary. With 59 years of priesthood now, Father Gaudray knows well of what he speaks.
Priests are indeed the friends of Jesus. We had the opportunity during Lent to meditate on the notion of friendship. Friendship involves a communication of the good between friends and creates between them a unified spirit. So, when Jesus made the Apostles his first priests, He wanted to share with them His greatest good: His sacrifice!
Let us well understand, dear Brethren: the institution of the priesthood took place along with the institution of the Holy Eucharist, because priesthood is for Eucharist. It is its first and principal raison d’etre. And the Eucharist is a sacrifice; it is the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, continually renewed every time a priest says again the words that Jesus said during the Last Supper: “This is my body – This is the chalice of my blood”
This is the testament of Jesus: His body and His blood! He had nothing more to give us than Himself and we have nothing more to expect from Him than Himself. It is through His priests that He made it possible for us to receive Him. You should never forget this truth. Whatever the personal holiness of a priest, he has been chosen by Jesus and called His friend. Even Judas, when he betrayed His Master, was called ‘friend’. God never takes back what He gave once!
Dear brethren, I would like to offer this Mass tonight, in reparation of sins committed against the virtue of charity. Not against sins committed everywhere in the world, but our sins, as members of Saint Francis de Sales church. You claim to be faithful to the Tradition of the Church, but you forget the most important testimony of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the most important commandment which He gave us before His Passion: that we love each other as He has loved us. Without this charity, all your devotions, prayers and sacrifices are nothing but hypocrisy. Today, you receive Our Lord from the hand of your priests, and tomorrow you will speak behind their backs! Do you not realize that it is paradoxical? Do you not understand that you cease to keep the word of God by doing this? Do you not see that it is just folly to do this since God knows and sees everything you do, that you say and what you think and that even your gossip will eventually end up in landing in the ears of the people you speak about, sooner or later. I have no illusion tonight and I know that no matter what we say about charity, there will always be Christians among us who will miss the most important detail of our religion. Jesus had no illusion and knew that among his friends, one would betray Him. This is the way it is. But I also know that we have holy people among us and I would like to give thanks to God for their holiness.
May Our Blessed Mother whom charity never failed help us to understand that we are loved by a God who humbled Himself for us. With her, let us give thanks for the sacrifice of her Son and for the Institution of Priesthood and Holy Eucharist. They are both gifts from the heart of Jesus for the poor sinners that we are.