Bishop Denis celebrated a solemn Mass of the Last Supper in the Church of the Holy Family Askea at 7pm. His speaking notes and homily follow.
An Easter message from Bishop Denis will go live on this website on Easter Sunday morning.
Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper
We begin with the reception of the Holy Oils blessed at last Mondays Chrism Mass …
We gather on this most sacred evening to commence a liturgy that will span three days, in a continuum that will last over 50 hours. We have gathered to walk with Jesus. We’ll journey from the Upper Room to Gethsemane tonight; from Gethsemane to Calvary tomorrow and from the tomb to resurrection and new life at Saturday’s vigil.
We begin where it all began and where it continues, as we do what He asked us to do … “Do this in memory of me” … an evening of memories, a celebration of service, an endorsement of the priesthood, a challenge to roll up our sleeves in service before approaching Communion …
As we prepare ourselves to journey the Easter Triduum, lets call to mind our sins and later celebrate in song our praise to God …
Children tonight will be familiar with that well-known song from their Religious Programme simply called: ‘The Apostles Song’
“Jesus had a special job.
To show the world the love of God.
But wondered if when he was gone,
someone would carry on …
… so he chose Peter and Andrew,
James and John,
James the less and his brother Jude.
There was Philip and Bartholemew,
Simon and Matthew too,
There was Judas Iscariot,
There was Thomas and that’s the lot.”
Notice the Iscariot is named second to the end. The only one who comes after him is Thomas, the unbeliever, the doubter, the finger-poker. Tonight’s gospel from St. John is framed around the thinking, the mindset of the Iscariot around the supper table: “the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him”.
The Church has had for obvious reasons an uncomfortable relationship with Judas Iscariot. The Iscariot is one of the most reviled figures of history. How did a man who was a follower and disciple of Jesus betray his own leader and Messiah? What motivated Judas to do what he did?
What can we learn from Judas’ life? Let’s appoint a Commission of Inquiry! John’s gospel already tells us he was a lover of money and a thief, and he stole from the common fund of the apostles, a fund that looked after the poor. John also labels him with handing Jesus over after Peter’s great confession of faith and his protestations at the lavish anointing at Bethany. We can ascertain that Judas being a zealot was probably disappointed in Jesus – he wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus had not measured up to these expectations. His life was full of contradictions – he was jealous; he was dishonest, he was a traitor.
What can we learn from Judas’ life that might apply to our own? It didn’t happen overnight. Treachery and betrayal are rooted in telling and repeating a simply lie; putting our hand in the till, in the purse, in the trousers pocket and doing it again and again and again. The Holy Thursday betrayal started the first day Judas Iscariot put his slippery paws into the common fund and pinched those few shekels! Pope Emeritus Benedict suggests while Judas in the end repented, that repentance slipped into desperation and became self-destructive. He didn’t embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness. There is a story told around a party similar to the one that welcomed home the Prodigal … except this one would happen on the Last Day and as the multitude piled into heaven for the celebrations, Jesus was found outside looking in the distance. Peter is deputed to find out what was keeping him from joining in the festivities … to which He replies: ‘Peter, I’m waiting for Judas’. And tonight, if He waits for Judas, He is waiting for us!
I am very struck by the very last line in Matthew’s text in yesterday’s gospel. It’s Matthew’s account of this very night. Jesus declares that one of them is about to betray him. Each in turn speak and as Judas says to Jesus: “Not I, Rabbi, surely?” “They are your own words” answered Jesus. Was Judas so far gone that he was incapable of understanding his actions? There is the perennial journey that will go through these three days, the Sacred Triduum and on that journey we will castigate Judas for his ultimate act of betrayal, reproach Peter for his weakness and denial. While Peter protests at Jesus washing his feet, he moves on to misunderstand the whole washing ritual. What distinguishes Peter from Judas is Peter was always open to mercy and forgiveness. When we tie ourselves up in knots, we make our lives incapable of letting in the light and refreshment that forgiveness and mercy bring. Holy Thursday is as much about mercy and acceptance around the table as it is about Eucharist and service.
Let us now re-enact what Jesus did that Last Supper Night in St. John’s text …
 Jn. 13:2
 Mt. 26:25