Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
I was listening to the radio the other week when I heard a Church of England vicaress predict that in forty years’ time the Church of England would no longer be around. She thinks that Christianity, and religion in general, is becoming less important to people in the 21st century. She may have a point. I don’t think any of us would describe our society today as particularly Christian. It would be more proper I think to call it post-Christian, because society has, for the most part, rejected the values which Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gave us. Christianity is widely regarded as being old-fashioned, outmoded and completely irrelevant in 21st century human society. Christian people are often considered to be a bit eccentric, or simply behind the times, and Christian teaching is considered to be shallow and wishy-washy. And the Christian ideal most commonly called into question is the Christian ideal of love.
I’ve already started preparing my homily for Jerome and Jade’s wedding in July, and I’ve been thinking about the meaning of love. And it dawned on me that there probably isn’t any other word which has been so devalued in meaning. The word ‘love’ is used so differently by different people that it’s difficult to know what the word means at all.
To one person love means romance; to another it means a torrid love-affair; to another it means obsession; or yet again just plain desire. But none of these is the true meaning of love. Remember: it is God who created love and only God can teach us the meaning of love.
And we need to remember that this evening as we commemorate Our Lord’s Last Supper with his disciples – we are taking part in God’s great love story with humanity. It was God’s love that rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. It was God’s love that sent Christ into the world to die for us and to save us from our sins. And it was God’s love that gave to us the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. We are gathered here this evening to remember the love of God. During the Last Supper Our Lord gave us the most perfect lesson in what it means to love.
The Apostles gathered together in the upper room to celebrate the Passover meal with Our Lord. They didn’t realize that this was to be their final meeting with him before he died. The hour of darkness was fast approaching. Soon evil men would have their way. And so before his final agony Our Lord must give to his friends one final expression of love.
But how could Our Lord make these simple men understand? He must teach them that love is strong, that love endures all things. He must show them that true love involves blood, sweat and tears: the tears he shed over Jerusalem, the city that rejected him; the sweat he spent in his years of preaching and teaching along the dusty roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judaea; and the blood he would now shed on Calvary’s Cross for the life of the world.
And so it is that Our Lord rose from the supper table and washed the Apostles’ feet. They were amazed that he should perform this lowly task normally reserved to the most junior servant in the household. He tells them “You do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Jesus who was their Lord and their God made himself their slave. God became man; and the man became a servant.
In this simple action Our Lord taught us what his whole life was about: “I have not come to be served, but to serve.” The sinless Son of God washed the dirty feet of sinful men. He gave himself as their food, and now he would go out to suffer and to die for them. The Son of God came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
This evening we remember the great love Our Lord has for us. We recall the hour of his passion and we remember once again his final words to us: “a new commandment I give to you: love one another as I have loved you.”
To be a true and authentic follower of Christ means we must take Our Lord’s words to heart and not just give them lip service, we must put Our Lord’s teaching and example into practice in our daily lives.
Today such love is pretty much ridiculed in our world. Fidelity in marriage is often disregarded. Serving our neighbour for no reward is laughed at. Honesty in work is ridiculed. Today it requires great strength of character to love, to serve and to remain honest.
Our love for one another must pass through the same test as Our Lord’s: through the blood, sweat and tears of human life. It must pass through the tears of compassion and care; it must pass through the sweat of honest work and concern; and it must pass through the blood of human pain and sorrow. Our love should be joyful, but it must also be strong.
And so, how deeply do we love? Are we devoted to those people with whom we share our lives? How deep is our love for God? Our God is ready to bestow his love upon us in just a few minutes, right here on this altar. Will we love him as he has loved us?
Dr. Martin Luther King, who served God all his life, said “A man who has found nothing to die for, has not got anything worth living for.”
Christ died for us. Will we live for him? Will you live for him?