Thursday, 13 April 2017

LEGACY: A Holy Thursday Reflection - Eamonn Monson SAC

Being an ordained priest is a wonderful privilege and some of the most inspiring moments are not those that we plan ourselves but the ones we are led to experience through God’s kind providence.

On Tuesday of last week I was called to anoint a man who was given just a week to live and at first sight he looked like he might not last even a day. But he sat up in the bed, asked me to sit on the edge of it and he leaned against me for support.

We had never met before and he seemed to have lost his connection with God, at least consciously, a connection that was broken because of the hurt he experienced as a father. Both of his sons, his only two children, were dead and the pain of that loss was palpable.

For some reason we started talking about home. He came from Connemara and his great-grandmother was from Inis Mor, the same island that my grandmother came from. They were both Flahertys from different villages but the two families are related. And this thought that he and I might be related gave him a real spurt of life. He was excited by the thought, and was even transformed by it.

And this connection paved the way for him to receive the sacraments that he had become a stranger to – absolution, anointing and Holy Communion. And he joined his hands in prayer like a child with a spirit of utter humility and I could see the face of God in him.

We returned to the loss of his sons. It made him cry and he said, “people don’t understand it but a generation is lost with them.” It was like he had no legacy to leave behind, no worthwhile legacy. He would leave his money and property but they were nothing to him. He needed to leave the legacy of his own children. Children are the best possible legacy that a man or woman can leave behind because they are living flesh and blood and bone and spirit.

At the last Supper Jesus also wanted to leave a legacy – a different kind of legacy. He left us the legacy of His own flesh and blood and spirit in the Eucharist as the perfect expression of His Love; the Eucharist that gives us a permanent, tangible connection with God; the Eucharistic Love by which He gets down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples. A perfect Love that serves.

The Eucharist is also the legacy, the only legacy of a priest. In it we are flesh and blood with Christ and with the people we serve, our sisters and brothers in the community of the faith.
Tomorrow, Good Friday,  that perfect Love of Christ is expressed on the Cross, a very different kind of experience. At the Last Supper Jesus was utterly free and in control. On the Cross He is vulnerable, helpless, held back.

The English mystic Caryll Houselander writes, the moment in which His love was consummated…was when the hands that could heal with a touch were nailed back out of reach!” Somehow, in the mystery of redemption, Love is at its most intense when it is not able to do anything.

How often do we as priests feel useless in the face of what we ought to be doing. When I celebrate the liturgy of washing feet in the name of Jesus I feel such an intense overflow of love in my heart, the love of God Himself. And in that moment I realize how much is lacking in my service of God’s people. How often do parents feel useless when they cannot communicate the love they feel for their child, how often do we find ourselves paralyzed by hurt or fear and unable to reach out to forgive. We have to wait, rather that rushing into something that might make things worse. Waiting on God, on God’s grace is a genuine calling.

Sometimes all we have is a desire to Love as we are meant to and all we can do is, like Jesus, to unite that desire with the will of God the Father, to allow ourselves to be like the bread of the Eucharist in the hands of the Father, allow Jesus in the Eucharist to provide what is lacking in our loving and in our service of each other.


The Hands that ache to
Reach and sooth and heal
The sore

These Hands are nailed
Held back

The feet obliged to
To bear forgiveness
For the hurt

These feet are nailed
Held back

With Christ I hang
Upon the Cross

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Eamonn for this very deep contemplative sharing. Must read it slower this time as it is so relevant on this Good Friday night.