St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The Love of the Heart of Jesus                          -Homily Holy Thursday, April 2, 2015

 

The priest is the love of the heart of Jesus. That’s it. Because the priest is not priest for himself, he is a man for others. Like Jesus, the priest did not come to be served, but to serve. And the service Jesus provides, the food he provides at the table, is he himself. Three gifts we celebrate today: the new commandment of love, the institution of priesthood and the institution of the Eucharist. And we can say that they are like one thing, in this sense: Jesus, out of love, wants to give himself to us in the Eucharist, and that is why he gives us priests: so that he can be with us in the Eucharist until the end of the world. I still remember Bishop De Angelis saying: “No priest, no Eucharist, my friends!”

 

This is why it is a concern that we do not have more vocations to priesthood. Is it that Jesus does not love us anymore?  No, my friends, I don’t think so. Jesus is still calling old men, young men and even children to priesthood. But are our hearts open to that call? Are our communities open and receptive to that call? Do we pray for vocations with the same concern we pray for the healing of our bodies? Are our families open to having a child say “Mum, I think I would like to become a priest, what do you think?” Dear friends, no priest, no Eucharist.

 

1.  And let me say more: no Eucharist, no happiness. The Eucharist is the tangible expression of the love of God, a good news that the world does not know. The world sinks desperately in the mud of pleasures and consumerism because it is all they have left until the time of death comes. Hope of salvation is only possible if God exists, if someone can pick me up from death. But hope of salvation is not a reality if God exists but he does not love me. The fact that God exists and can save me, does not necessarily mean that he will. The fact that God is omnipotent and can forgive me, does not necessarily mean that he wants to do so. The good news of Jesus is precisely this: that God wants to save me and wants to forgive me. The Eucharist, because it is the real, true and substantial presence of Jesus, is an expression of this love. God came to save us, God wants to save us.

 

2. So we are all saved? Is that it? Some people like to say that because God is love, we are already saved, and there is nothing else we have to do in order to attain salvation. Salvation is not something to be accepted by me, they say, salvation is not something yet to work out, but something that happened, something I do not have to care about. God loves me, but he doesn’t care if I love him or not. God forgives me, but he doesn’t care if I repent or not. God saves me, they say, but he doesn’t care if I become a better person or not, he doesn’t care if I struggle with the existential questions, and he doesn’t even care if I need something or not. If this is true, my friends, I am “saved,” but I am alone. Salvation, for these guys, is something like a toy that God gave me and in that way he got rid of me. Salvation for them is something that does not enter my intelligence, something that does not engage my freedom, something that has nothing to do with what I love. This is wrong! This is false! God loves me, but precisely because of this, he wants my love. Or do you not care if your friends love you or not?

 

Again, the Eucharist is an expression of this: the Eucharist is always there, but I have to open my mouth to receive it, I have to say “Amen” to what Jesus wants from me. If I want to rejoice in the love of God, if I want to be saved, I have to love him back. The good news is that God wants my freedom, he wants me to choose him freely as my God and my saviour, he wants my love, he cares about my answer. What a beautiful thing it is to be saved!

 

3.  Salvation is like the Eucharist. Salvation is not a toy that God gives you to get rid of you, salvation is God himself for you, with you, if you accept it. It is not enough to open your mouth to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, you have to open your heart. If I open my mouth, but I do not open my heart to what God commands, if I say that I love him but I do not keep his commandments (cf. John 14:15ss)  I do not receive Jesus, but my own condemnation, as St. Paul says (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). If I say “Amen” to communion, but I do not say “Amen” to my brothers and sisters, if I do not forgive them, I do not receive Jesus, I do not love him, because as St. John says, whoever says that she loves God and does not love her neighbour is a liar (cf. 1 John 4:20). What a beautiful thing to reflect upon: salvation requires from us a personal  answer.

 

God does exist and can save me, God wants to save me, but God expects my answer. The offer has been made, and now it becomes my decision to accept or not the love of a God who became man and even bread to be with me until the end of times. They say it is difficult to feel worthy, to have a healthy self-esteem, until you don’t feel that you are important for someone, or that someone in a certain sense fell in love with you. But when you realize that the one who put his eyes on you is God himself, the joy is overwhelming. It is God who asks, but it is you who answer. Like in a vocation to the priesthood.

 

I wish that our young people could realize how important this message is for our culture, that has forgotten God. It is a message that delivers us, that, through the grace of God, opens our heart to the possibility of a love beyond all telling. It is the message that opens for men and women the possibility of being really blessed, really happy. May we all welcome the offer of God in the Eucharist with an open heart. May we always have a priest to feed us with the love of God. May God grant to our parish more vocations to the priesthood. We ask this through the intercession of our Lady.  –Fr. Andrew