Here in St. Senan’s Parish (Enniscorthy) numbers attending the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday were small.
Generally, blame for this decline is attributed to a discredited Church. But that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Here’s why: The events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil (and Easter Sunday) are not primarily about the Church but about Jesus Christ and more particularly about Christ’s desire to enter into relationship with humankind. Dare I say it; to save humankind! In summary; it’s about people’s relationship with Christ and the work of salvation.
Therefore, if people’s absence on Holy Thursday night was truly about a discredited Church as opposed to their relationship with Christ then you would expect that large numbers of people found other ways to mark the Last Supper on Holy Thursday night.
But can you imagine large numbers of people in Enniscorthy (or wherever) doing that on Holy Thursday night? Isn’t it much more likely that for the vast majority of people Holy Thursday night was no different to any other night?
The truth of the matter is that significant moments in Christ’s life (in which he attempts to influence human affairs) have no relevance for growing numbers of Irish people.
Behind the blaming of the Church the real questions are about Christ and his meaning for peoples lives.
In the failure of many to celebrate Holy Thursday all that’s happening is that Christ is being stripped again, humiliated and rejected. Isn’t it true to say that really it’s not about the Church at all but about taking everything from Christ?
The growing unbelieving world is taking his birthday away from him, making it into something else; likewise his Last Supper, his passion, death and resurrection and if many are not actively taking from him, many are doing it through indifference.
Is this a reason to be discouraged? No. Not at all.
Mother Theresa said; “if you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers.” This is God’s work.
We’re merely returning to our beginnings when the vast majority rejected Christ.
But the stone rejected by the builders became the corner stone. He rose again; and he’ll rise again, just at that point when we think all is lost, at that point when it looks like all is lost, as it did in those desolate hours before the resurrection. The future is Paschal.
It does mean however that the Church must radically change how we do things. In the towns and cities we need to move out from the security of our Church buildings. Pope Francis suggests we need to rent a garage or a shed in the densely populated areas and put a priest or a catechist there, celebrate Mass there.
Pope Francis calls this putting things in a missionary key.
Finally, there’s another name for how Christ accepts, embraces and transforms all this rejection of himself – it’s called mercy.
We need to trust it … we’re certainly not going to defeat it!