Jesus sent two of his talmudim, “Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Wherever he enters, tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, “Where is my place of unyoking; where I may eat the Pasach with my talmudim?”
Father John R. Heinz began the homily for this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood by leading us in the Penitential Rite, an integral part of any Mass, leading us to the liturgy of the Eucharist. As he did, he could not help but look up at the Priestly Blessing, adorning the back of the nave of our Cathedral. Looking further, he could not help but see the old style confessionals decorating the back wall of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral. To his left stood the baptismal font, where we all received baptism for the forgiveness of our failures and where the Bishop welcomed us into Catholic Christian community.
Father John began his homily by telling the story of a country pastor who struggled putting together his Sunday homily. Not able to come up with any ideas, he decided to walk through the outside courtyard. A graveyard was nearby that country parish, he walked through that tranquil graveyard. There, he came up with his homily.
As he walked through the graveyard, he remembered how everybody is dying to get into the graveyard, literally. The priest contemplated Romans 6:4, “We were buried with him through baptism into death. As Christ was raised from the dead through the importance of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
Father read the part of the Gospel where the talmudim meet the man carrying the water jar. An old rule of Jewish rhetoric is, there is nothing in Torah not there for a reason. The man with the water jar reminds us of our baptism into death, a literal death leading us to new life. The Greek word for, “a guest house,” the place to eat the Pasach, is κατάλυμα, from καταλύω, “A place to unloose, to unyoke, to unwind.” The Eucharist is the place where we unloose, unyoke, and unwind, from our past with its failures to prepare for our new lives in the future.
Behind Father John was our Cathedral altar. At the back of our altar are the Words of Institution, part of our Gospel for this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood. Father John discussed the importance of the country parish priest’s graveyard. Every tombstone has upon it the name of the person, the date of their birth, and the date of their migration into heaven. The Words of Institution are the words Jesus, knowing he would not have a headstone, wanted for his memory.
He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, “This is my body, given for you; do this in memory of me.” He took the cup after they had eaten, “This cup is the new Social Contract in my blood, shed for you.”
Jesus wants to us to know him as giving up his life so others might live. He also wants us to know, through our participation in the Mass, we die with him in baptism and we rise with him in baptism and we die and rise with him through our participation in the Mass into new life, a life lived for others. Jesus reminds the original disciples, Jews all, of the Passover Seder, which they were participating in. This Seder has its roots in Deuteronomy 5:1-7: The Personal Name, our Mighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us…; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day.”
This idea carries on in Exodus 13:8: “You will explain to your son, ‘This is what the Personal Name did for me when I came out of Egypt/ Oppression.” He did not do it for someone else; he did it for me, personally. God did not rescue my fathers. He rescued me, personally.
Now he rescues you. Jesus wants this as his memorial and this is what he wants our memorial to be. “He rescued me, personally, and now he rescues you.” “Give me your tired, your poor, those yearning to breathe free,” he tells us. That is his memorial and what he wants our memorial to be.
Each generation lives the Passion, the Passover for the first time, each time; we celebrate Passover Seder, now our Mass. Our memorial is of the living. Pass it on!