On Holy Thursday, I usually offer this Mass for deceased priests. I think of them often during holy week. I think of those priests who encouraged my journey to the priesthood. I think of those priests whose homilies I heard, those priests who heard my confessions, those priests who showed me what it means to love like Jesus. I think of those priests who stood at the Altar of God here and in so many other places throughout the world, who now, we pray stand around the throne of God in heaven. I think of them often during holy week and especially on Holy Thursday.
They were men of the Word of God. They spoke the word of Jesus. They preached like a mighty wind, like a thundering storm, and sometimes like the still, small voice. They spoke of life and love. They spoke of sin and suffering. They spoke of forgiveness and healing. They spoke of mercy. And they took time to speak to me. They spoke to me as a father and then welcomed me as a brother. They brought a word from on high. They echoed the voice of Jesus.
And they extended the hand of Jesus. I will never forget the laying on of hands on ordination day, one priest after another. They were strong hands. They were gentle hands. They were hands consecrated and blessed so that with those same hands they could bless and consecrate. With the raising of their hands they could bless the holy people of God. With the extension of their hand and the sign of the cross they could break the chains of sin in the sacrament of reconciliation. With the extension of their hands they could bring healing to the sick, hope to the hopeless, and consolation to the dying. With their hands they could wash the feet of those whom God had given them to love in God’s name. They could take bread in their hands. They could take a chalice of wine into their hands. They could extend the hands of Jesus and echo the voice of Jesus and Jesus Christ would give himself into their hands. And with their hands, with those blessed and consecrated hands, they could feed the flock of God with the Bread of Life.
They echoed the voice of Jesus. They extended the hand of Jesus and they radiated the love of Jesus. In their faces I saw compassion. I saw shepherds who suffered with their flocks. In their lives I saw the radiation of prayer. They stood and they had stood in the light of God’s glory. They had been to the mountaintop. They had seen the glory of God shining on the face of Christ. They had seen the glory of God shining in the eyes of children they baptized. They had seen the presence of the Holy One in the couples they had married. They had seen the potential for greatness in the young and the fruits of holiness in the old. Those priests had lived in the presence and the power of holiness. They lived in the power and the presence of the holiness of God and of the holiness of God’s people. They radiated the love of Jesus and I wanted to follow them because they would show me the way to Jesus.
They echoed his voice. They extended his hand. They radiated his love. They brought me to Jesus in their words and brought Jesus to me in the Eucharist. They echoed, they extended and they radiated. Because they had heard, they echoed. Because they had been touched, they extended. Because they had encountered Jesus, they radiated. I pray for deceased priests on Holy Thursday because I know that one day my voice will be an echo. My hands will be united by a rosary. And the faith and love that radiates here will give way to sight and everlasting communion in the kingdom.
But when we gather for the Eucharist, when the Word is proclaimed and the bread is broken, death will fall silent. The priests of Christ and Christ’s priestly people will stand in glory at the wedding Feast of the Lamb. And Christ our High Priest, who on this night gave us the priesthood and the Eucharist, will give us a place at his table in the kingdom of heaven where he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.