Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Washes the feet of 12 people, as Christ washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington marked the start of the Triduum, the final three days before Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper today at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. During the Mass, the cardinal washed the feet of 12 people, just as Christ washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.
The cardinal began his homily by reminding the faithful that the Holy Father had offered the Church and the world a special gift, the Jubilee Year of Mercy. “The purpose of this manifestation of God’s mercy is to encourage us to receive the gift of God’s loving compassion that can transform our hearts and then to invite us to share this gift that can truly bring Christ’s peace and hope to our families, our communities and our world,” he said. “In announcing this special time of grace, our Holy Father reminded us, ‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy [and] we need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace,’” said the cardinal, referencing Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy), the papal document that proclaimed the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
Cardinal Wuerl then recalled the visit of Pope Francis to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, saying it was one of many aisles he walked down during his Washington visit. He briefly reflected on the Holy Father’s talk to the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s that, “We are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response.” The cardinal also briefly talked about the other aisles the Holy Father walked, at the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the address to the U.S. Congress, the visit to St. Patrick’s and then to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. In each instance, Cardinal Wuerl said, the Holy Father offered to those present a message of encouragement, love and challenge.
“Later in this Mass of the Lord’s Supper, as soon as we conclude this homily, we will begin the ceremony of the washing of the feet. The great command, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your strength,’ and the second command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ are intended to be reflected in this Liturgy,” said the cardinal. “What brings us to the table of the Lord is our love of the Lord and what brings us to our knees to wash the feet of others is the recognition that we must see in one another Jesus Christ, and thus love one another. The washing of the feet, like the Eucharist itself, is intended to help you and me, once again, hear the story of God’s love. Lest we forget that a part of God’s love for us and our love for God is our love for one another, Jesus washed the feet of his Apostles. Everything is love. This action simply reminds us that God loves each of us and in that love he calls us to love one another.”
“We are to go out, encounter and accompany,” continued the cardinal. “The spiritual strength to do that comes from the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not only the pledge and enduring sign of God’s love for us, of Christ’s love for us, but it is also an invitation to experience personally and intimately that love.”
“As we come to the altar and step forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a profound act of faith, let us renew in our hearts the realization that Christ who washed the feet of his disciples is present to wash away anything that would keep us from being one with him or hinder us from sharing in the joy of his new and eternal life,” said the cardinal as he concluded his homily.
After Mass, the Eucharist was moved in a solemn procession to a chapel for silent adoration, and the altar and sanctuary were stripped of all ornamentation in preparation of Good Friday, the day Christ died on the cross. Mass is not held in Catholic churches on Good Friday.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.