Archbishop John's Maundy Thursday homily 2024

Archbishop John's homily on Maundy Thursday reminded us of the gift of the Eucharist.


 Read Archbishop Wilson's Maundy Thursday Homily

Maundy Thursday Homily Video

Photographs from the Maundy Thursday Service in St George's Cathedral

Click on the 'CC' button at the base of the YouTube video for subtitles

Photographs courtesy of Marcin Mazur

Maundy Thursday 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Two indispensable aspects of what it means to be a Christian are set before in this evening’s Liturgy of the Mass of the Lord’ Supper. We are called, again, to Eucharistic amazement, to honour and live from the gift and mystery of Christ’s sacred body and precious blood. We are called, again, to generous servanthood towards others, to inhabit Christ’s own disposition of love, a practical loving in all the messiness of life.

At the Last Supper, the night before he died for us, the Lord Jesus took bread and wine. He spoke familiar words we will never fully understand, but so desperately need to hear: ‘this is my body; this is my blood.’  He was telling his disciples - he was telling us - that here, in the Eucharist, he’s with us. That we’re not alone. That we’re not abandoned. This so important. Our Saviour and divine friend is present with us, and present for us, in the Mass and in Holy Communion, in the Tabernacle and in the monstrance.

When I was an assistant priest there was a time when there were some difficulties in the parish I was in. One particular night I just couldn’t sleep for the things on my mind. In the end, I got up in the early hours of the morning, put on my dressing gown, and went and sat in Church right underneath the tabernacle. There was nowhere else to go. There was nothing else to do, except to come close to the Lord, living and present in the bread of life. It brought to mind the words of St Peter: ‘Lord, who else is there to go to? Only you have the words of eternal life.’(Jn 6:68-69)

Do this,’ said the Lord Jesus; ‘Do this in memory of me.’ It’s so momentous that the Lord Jesus gave us the Eucharist the evening before he was crucified. The gift of his body and blood at the Last Supper, and the offering of his body and blood on the cross, are part of one single sacrifice offered when he died and rose to free us from our sins. Remember, says the Lord Jesus to us tonight, never forget that I really am with you, truly present in the gift and mystery of my body and blood.

It was in this Eucharistic setting that the same Lord Jesus stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet. This was normally the job of a slave, a nobody. It was, therefore, unacceptable to Simon Peter that the Lord should do this. But it was essential to the witness of Jesus. He was teaching us how we should behave, so that we could be servants to each other: not just to people we like or agree with; not just to people who look like we do or are easy to get along with; not just to people whose lives are sorted or straightforward. When we love and serve with the greatest personal discomfort, we can be most sure that it’s not about us. It’s about loving and serving the Lord Jesus in the other person

While at university I used to help with altar serving in Leeds Cathedral. One weekday, after the lunchtime Mass, I was tidying up in the sacristy and an older woman came to the door. She asked for the deacon. I said he was still in the Cathedral, but would be through in minute or two. The woman was rather bedraggled. Her hair was unwashed. She looked sad and tired. When the deacon came, he greeted her warmly by name. Her speech was slow, but he took time to listen to her. He gave her some money and she went on her way. The deacon said nothing, but over lunch I asked him about her. He explained she had spent much of her life as a prostitute and an alcoholic. The drink had affected her health leaving her impaired. She now lived alone in poverty. The deacon, Maurice was his name, said to me: ‘The thing you have to remember, John, is that woman is more sinned against than sinning.’

The love of the Lord Jesus for us in the Eucharist changes our hearts and minds. Our love for the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist expands our hearts and understanding. The Eucharist must make us more loving and compassionate servants after Christ’s own merciful heart.

To serve like the Lord Jesus means entering into others’ suffering, trying to put ourselves in their situation, to see life through their eyes and feel with their heart. Without compassion, we’re like lights that don’t shine; like fruit that never ripens; like a fire that gives no warmth. Compassion can’t make right something that’s wrong. It can’t turn something false into something true. It doesn’t ignore culpability or justice. It isn’t a cosy papering over the cracks. But compassion is the necessary innate first response to the sadness and tragedy of others. It means responding like servants, responding slaves, responding like the Lord Jesus.

Tonight my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ perhaps we can say simply:

Lord Jesus, give us faith to see and love you, really and truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

Lord Jesus, give us faith to see and love and serve you in our brothers and sisters in need.

These two indispensable aspects of what it means to be a Christian are set before us as we watch and pray.

Archbishop John's homilies