8 APRIL 2004
HOMILY OF MOST REV DONAL MURRAY, BISHOP OF LIMERICK
AT MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER IN ST JOHN’S CATHEDRAL
LIMERICK, HOLY THURSDAY 8 APRIL 2004
Since the time of Moses, Jews have remembered the night that they set out
on their dangerous escape from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. They
ate the Passover Meal in haste because it was not just a preparation; it
was the first stage of the journey.
On the night before he died, Jesus shared a Passover Meal with his friends.
It was the beginning of his last journey, a journey full of pain but leading
to his Father. ‘The hour had come for him to pass from this world to the
These were the final hours of his life – a time for focussing on essential
things. He took bread and said, ‘This is my body which is given for you’.
He took wine and said, ‘This is the cup of my blood, which will be shed for
you’. This was not just a preparation for what was to come; he was already
offering his life to his Father for us.
So that the apostles would understand the meaning of his death, ‘He showed
how perfect his love was’.
In the Eucharist, he really gives his broken body and his spilled blood to
us as he did to them. We are not just remembering something that is over
and past. We are in the presence of the death he died for us. He says to us,
‘my body is given for you; my blood is shed for you’.
Jesus gives himself without reserve, at the cost of his death on the cross.
When we celebrate the Eucharist we are saying, ‘This is the meaning of our
lives; following him is our path to the Father.’
He told his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. To them the
cross did not mean a beautiful work of art or a piece of jewellery. It
was a terrifying instrument of torture and shame, of blood and death.
Taking up your cross meant giving up everything.
In order to drive the lesson home, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
Peter thought it was intolerable. Jesus is the Lord and Master; he should
not be lowering himself like that! ‘You shall never wash my feet!’
Jesus wanted to be sure that they had grasped the point: “Do you understand
what I have done to you? …You should wash each other’s feet”. We are meant
to give ourselves to other people, to be servants of other people, to put
their needs before our advantage. That means every person without exception,
especially people we dislike, people we see as competitors, people against
whom we have a grudge, people we look on as different, as strangers, as not
worth our attention. Jesus gave his body and shed his blood for each of them.
Honest sharing in the Eucharist requires being ready to give ourselves for
them as he did. “First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then
come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:24).
Jesus cannot be followed part-time or half-heartedly. In every moment of our
lives, every relationship, every decision, the most fundamental question is
this – ‘am I giving myself without counting the cost, as he did?’ That is
the question we put to ourselves by celebrating the Eucharist. Brother Roger
of Taizé put it like this: “He is not asking too much of us; but he is asking
Bishop of Limerick
Ms Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer 087 233 7797
Notes to Editors:
* The Holy Week and Easter Ceremonies on RTÉ 1 and RTÉ Network 2 this year
will come from Limerick City, centred on the magnificently restored St John’s
Cathedral, where the principal celebrant will be Most Reverend Donal Murray,
Bishop of Limerick.
* The Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be broadcast on RTE Network 2 from 6.30pm to 7.45pm
on Thursday 8th April 2004
* Further information on diocesan events and ceremonies for Holy Week and
Easter 2004 are available on the website of the Catholic Communications Office