jeudi, avril 13, 2006

Mandatum novum do vobis

Sermon for Holy Thursday
Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos!

A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13, 34)

We certainly do not fully grasp the profound significance of these words spoken by Our Lord on the day before His Passion. Yet, they are the summary of His entire life and teaching, as they also are the Code of our Christian life. Let us well understand what they mean!

We must love one another as Jesus has loved us! This is the measure of what our love for one another must be. We must love as Jesus has loved us and this is a commandment. It is even a new commandment. Of course the commandment of love was not missing in the Old Testament. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord, God said to Moses. The substance of the love we should have didn’t change with the coming of Christ into the world. But now, we have a perfect example that we can and we must follow: Love one another as I have loved you. Now we have no excuse for not knowing how we must love.
So why is this commandment a new one? Saint Augustine answers that this commandment renews us, makes us new men, heirs of the New Covenant and worthy of singing the new canticle. This is the same love, which has renewed the Just of the Old Testament, the Patriarchs and the Prophets, as later, it has renewed the Blessed Apostles. It is also the love that now renews all the nations and that makes all of mankind, spread throughout the world, one people, which is the body of the new Spouse of the only Son.

Dear Brethren, love is unifying. The love of God unifies and consolidates the Mystical Body. This love must be found at its source, which is Jesus Christ Himself. And where can we find Jesus if not first at our altars? It is precisely just before he instituted the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist that Our Lord gave us His new Commandment. By giving us His Body for our spiritual food, He gives us the ability and the strength to fulfill this commandment. It would not be possible for us to do it by ourselves. We cannot love one another as Jesus has loved us on our own. We need the necessary means for this, which is the sanctifying grace. The grace allows God to dwell in our souls. The truth is that, when we love perfectly according to the will of God, it is not really ourselves who love but rather Jesus Christ in us. Saint Paul maintains it with all his mind in the Epistle to the Galatians: And I live, now not I; but Christ lives in me.

Christ lives in me! I wish we could say the same thing: Christ lives in me! Then the “ per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso ” of the Mass would receive its full meaning. Through Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus, we can really offer to the Father, in union with the Holy Ghost, the true praise of honor and Glory that we couldn’t offer on our own.
Bishop Fulton Sheen explains: It is through Christ our Mediator, in union with Him, and in a sense absorbed or incorporated in Him, that we His ransomed ones will partake with all His creation in the blessed praise of the Holy Trinity for ever. The Amen which closes this sublime prayer is without doubt the most significant Amen in the entire course of the Mass. This was anciently the only time that Amen was said during the old Canon; and here the word is used in its most complete and extensive sense. Let us therefore say it together, with heart-felt fervor: “ so be it.” And I would gladly add, even in the mornings at the 6:30 Mass, though it is a great effort to rouse you from your torpor to which you have succumbed during the silence of the Canon, soothed by the early mist.

So, our prayer is fully true and effective when we are in full union with Jesus, verus et solus orans, the only true worshiper in truth and Spirit. In fact, Communion associates us with the intimate life of the Blessed Trinity, which is a life of complete and perfect love. If the Eucharist gives us the life of Jesus and if Jesus is really Love, then it is through Communion that we can perfectly fulfill the new Commandment of Charity.
Charity finds its accomplishment on the Cross, which is the greatest manifestation of God’s love. As Benedict XVI recalls it in his Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas est, the death of Jesus on the Cross is love in its most radical form. And the Holy Father adds that it is from this sacrifice that our definition of love must begin. Tonight, we have a supreme token of the love of Jesus for us, told by Saint John: Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. The love of Jesus is an unrivalled love without any concessions nor reservations. It is a love unto the end. So our love, also, must be.
Man, in his origin, was created in the image of God, though men have disfigured this image by their sins. By redeeming us, Our Savior has restored it, but it still must be continually sought out since our sins hide it. Eucharistic Communion restores it in an excellent way by changing us more and more into Jesus Christ who is the perfect image of the Father. Jesus offered Himself to achieve this restoration. And the Pope says that Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental “mysticism”, grounded in God's condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lifts us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish.

Thus, there is really a novelty performed by the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The day of its institution must be celebrated as the most important event of History which we cannot disconnect from the day of the Sacrifice of Jesus. There is a strong connection between the Last Supper and the Cross, which Mel Gibson has brought out very well in his movie when Saint John, seeing Jesus nailed on the Cross and raised, remembered the offering of the bread and of the wine the day before.

So dear Brethren, in the Eucharist, we can find the strength to participate in the Passion of Christ and to offer ourselves with Him to the Father. Then, we will fulfill the new Commandment because Christ will dwell perfectly in our souls, our hearts and our minds and we will truly be another Christ.

I pray to Our Lady tonight so that She can help us to accept Her Son in our lives. With Her, we can learn how to receive Communion with a true and sincere love and then how to live with a profound Charity. As long as we don’t love as Jesus wants us to love, that is as He has loved us, we can consider ourselves usurpers of the beautiful title of Christians. May God help us to avoid this and have mercy on us!

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