Bishop Caggiano’s Homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

My dear friends,

Words matter.

When I was in high school, my debate teacher would constantly remind my classmates and myself of those two words. Words matter. He would tell us that in an argument and debate, it’s just a few words that can make all the difference. And so when we do speak, we should make sure that our words matter, that we say exactly what we mean and to use our words as best as possible

It’s interesting. When Winston Churchill addressed parliament at the beginning of World War Two to rally his nation, there was much pressure around him to make peace with Hitler. But in his heart, he knew he could not make a deal with someone so evil. And so he gave a very memorable speech. Not long, but his words mattered. And his opponent was asked, what just happened?

And he said, the prime minister militarized his words and sent them into battle. And from those few words, England went to war and freed all of Europe with our help of the evil of Nazism. See, words do matter.

I want to remind us of that tonight, my friends, because tonight we gather here in this sacred space to marvel, to sit in awe of the words that Jesus spoke this night to His apostles. We heard it in the second reading. This is My Body. This is the cup of My Blood. He did not say, this is like My Body.

He did not say, this is a sign of My Body. He did not say, this should remember, you should remind you of My Body. He said in His original Aramaic that we now speak in English, this is My Body.

And if words matter, the One who speaks the words matters even more. And so the One who spoke those words is Our Savior, Our Redeemer, God made man.

And so Jesus this night took the ritual of the Passover, when the jewish people commemorate the passing of the angel of death over them. To free them from the pharaoh and his slavery. He took that simple meal and re transformed it into the sacrament of His Passover from death to life, and gave you and I the great, be able to enter into that mystery without having to be crucified ourselves, without having nails driven into your hands and mine. But in an unbloody way, we enter into that mystery, which we will commemorate tomorrow on the Friday we call good for us.

And He allows us this mystery by simply saying, this is My Body. My friends, here is the Lord Jesus true body, true blood, soul and divinity. This is the Savior and Redeemer of all things who sits on the throne of this altar. And He comes to us every time we gather to do this in His memory. For when we remember the Lord, He is truly, really acting and present in our midst.

There are no words in any language I have ever heard, who could fully and completely describe the mystery we celebrate here. The only thing we can do is to hear the priest in the person of Christ repeat the words that have changed all creation. This is My Body. This is My Blood.

My dear friends, Jesus gives us a share in the ultimate sacrament of love so that we might, with his grace, love as he did. That is why in a few moments, I will, in my own way, reenact with twelve individuals coming here. What the Lord did as our God and savior, he did it to teach us that we received the sacrament of love so that we might love one another. We received to become what we receive. And so, in the time of Jesus, it was a slave that washed a person’s feet.

No one but a slave. And anyone who washed someone else’s feet would be considered impure. And yet, God did it for us. The question is, as we come forward to receive this great mystery every Sunday, perhaps every day, are we willing to allow that sacrament to fill our hearts so that we might love as He did, to love those who have no one, to love them, to love by forgiving those who have offended us, to love those that, at first glance, we have nothing in common with, those we are afraid of, those we have never made it our business to even come to know his or her name. Are you and I willing to love in a way different from that world that sees the poor as a problem, that world that wants us to be divided, to love that way, my friends, will not cause us to hang on a cross, but it will cause us to suffer.

We will leave what’s comfortable. We will leave what’s familiar. We may actually have to leave apart our reputation, even our friendships. But if you and I are going to come forward to receive this great mystery, the true, real, full, complete body and blood of Jesus Christ, and we are not willing to love as He did? Perhaps we are receiving it in vain.

Tonight is a great mystery. Tonight is also a great challenge.

Allow me, my friends, to suggest one more thing. My mother used to say, familiarity breeds contempt. And what does that mean? To put it another way, is that we can easily take for granted one another a wife or husband who no longer talk with each other, a father or mother who takes for granted the time spent with the son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter. A friendship we keep meaning to call the person, and a day becomes a week and a month.

You see, familiarity allows us to take another person for granted.

How often have you and I taken for granted the presence of the Lord. He’s here 363 days a year. Tonight He is no longer in his tabernacle. He will come to his altar of adoration as we depict the Lord preparing for His agony and His crucifixion. And tomorrow and Saturday, He will be gone from this place so that we might once again break that possibility in you and me to take His presence for granted.

When we come into this church, do we acknowledge Him? Do we kneel before Him? Do we genuflect to our King here when He is in our midst? Do we actually spend the time to adore Him? Before mass and after mass, myself included.

Tonight we will have an opportunity to spend time with Him. Please, my friends, spend that time with Him. And allow your heart and mind to once again burn with the fire of love and zeal for the Lord who has come to walk with us.

This is My Body. This is My Blood. These are the words that have changed the whole world. What words will we say to Him in return?