09 April 2020

Homily - 9 April 2020 - Holy Thursday of the Lord's Supper

Holy Thursday
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Dear brothers and sisters,

J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote to his son Michael of the great importance and centrality of the Holy Eucharist. In doing so, the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings referred to a poem by Francis Thompson comparing the love of God to a hound who continually chases after him. Tolkien said, “Not for me the Hound of Heaven, but the never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle, and the sense of starving hunger.”[1] Of course, by speaking of the “never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle,” Tolkien did not mean the golden box in our churches, but rather that cherished treasure housed therein: the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

Who of us has not also experienced this sense of starving hunger for the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation? Though we may have taken the gift of the Eucharist for granted in the past, our longing and yearning for it has, in these past few weeks, been heightened and we have become perhaps more aware of our need for Holy Communion, both with the Lord and with one another.

Particularly on this day, Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Supper, the never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle stirs in our hearts all the more because on this day we participate in that Last Supper in which the Lord Jesus, who,

on the night he was betrayed, … loving those who were his own in the world even to the end, offered his body and blood to the Father under the appearances of bread and wine, gave them to the apostles to eat and drink, then enjoined the apostles and their successors in the priesthood to offer them in turn.[2]

What the Church believes about the Holy Eucharist has hit home to us quite deeply because we have not been able to gather at the altar of the Lord. We have come to realize in a profound way that it is from the Eucharist that we draw “the fullness of charity and of life.”[3]

Perhaps the Lord is inviting us in these days – and especially tonight - to quiet ourselves, to be still, and to allow his never-ceasing silent appeal to stir us from our spiritual sloth to a greater and more intentional devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps he is inviting us to recognize our starving hunger for him in a way that normal fasting could not bring about. On this night, church bells will fall silent, but the tabernacle will not. Let us attune the ears of our hearts to its call and draw near to him at the altar of our hearts.

As a man deeply devoted to the Eucharist, Tolkien knew well the power hidden within such a humble appearance. He also knew that the Eucharist calls us to live in the fullness of charity and life. He said to his son, “But I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning – and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it.”[4]

Although we draw from the Eucharist the fullness of charity and of life to which we are called as members of the Body of Christ, we do not always live up to the Eucharist; strengthened by the gift of the Lord himself, we do not always imitate his selfless service of others and make of ourselves an offering to God the Father.

The Sacred Triduum this year will be celebrated and observed in a most curious fashion, one that none of us would have asked for, but this does not mean divine grace will be absent or lacking; indeed, the Lord may yet surprise us with how his grace may touch our hearts. Let us, then, this night, recognize our starving hunger for him and hear his continual call of love that he may feed us with his love. Let us open our hearts to him who allowed his heart to be opened to us. Amen.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, 1 November 1963. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien, eds. (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 340.
[2] Ceremonial of Bishops, 297.
[3] Roman Missal, Collect for Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
[4] J.R.R. Tolkien, ibid.

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