Homily of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa for Holy Thursday 2022

By: Pierbattista Pizzaballa - Published: April 14 Thu, 2022

Homily of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa for Holy Thursday 2022 Available in the following languages:

Most Reverend Excellencies,

Dearest priests,

Dearest brothers and sisters,

I am grateful to the Lord and to you for this beautiful participation, which brings together both our whole Church of Jerusalem and many priests, religious and faithful from all over the world. It is a sign of the return to full ecclesial and social life; a small resurrection, in spite of the shadows of death and violence that, here and everywhere the world, still want to impose themselves on our consciences.

There truly seems to be no end to the prodigious duel between Life and Death that we are witnessing, both as dismayed spectators and as protagonists called to participate.

Like us and for our sake, Jesus too found himself in the midst of a conflict; He too was the protagonist and victim of a duel between life and death; He too had to face violence, injustice, cruelty; yet, He brought forth life and hope around him.

During these past years, we have all experienced – and still experience – disorientation and fatigue. Two years of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have wearied many families and many of our priests. Moreover, in our social context, the lack of clear and serene perspectives also weighs heavily on our shoulders. As I have had occasion to note in recent days, cyclical violence frightens parents, who fear for the future of their children. The clear lack of safe references and the sense of loneliness are a real burden. And although the use of media can appear as a way to cure this loneliness, it does not. Man does not feed on virtual sharing, but on real relationships. Our liturgies cannot be virtual; they require a real encounter. Today, even outside our country, the situation does not seem any better... Let us think of what is happening right now in the heart of Europe.

All of this easily leads us to think above all about ourselves, about our own particular advantage or, at most, about those dear to us. This time seems to be a time of dispersion, of self-interest, of a lack of a true sense of community.

In this situation, the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself up to bring us together, comes to meet us. Before our fears and at the heart of our closures, of our locked doors, He makes His way, not with the magic of easy solutions nor with contemptuous and superficial judgment, but with trust in the Father. A trust that is stronger than fear, and with a love for our brothers and sisters greater than our closures.

On this holy day, memorial of His Eucharistic Gift and of His delivery into the hands of His enemies, He comes to meet us again, in Word and Sacrament, as defenseless as then, as meek as then, ready to make death into a gift to transform violence into forgiveness. He does not flee from Caiaphas’ decision, He does not contest Pilate’s judgment, He does not threaten His executioners. His behavior is not a mannered pacifism or a simple passive non-violence, but rather to affirm a new and truly victorious reaction: the reaction of trust in God and of love for all.

I like to see here the true root and the authentic source of synodality, which the Holy Father has proposed as a way for the Church, in this time that Providence is calling us to live. The invitation to synodality is simply the invitation to “be Church” in a time of dispersion, in order to get everyone to walk together again. The Church, which is the Body of Christ living in the present, our Church, cannot but live and give herself only for this, only “to gather together the children of God who are scattered”.

And so allow me, as your Bishop, to address a word to the Church that has been entrusted to me by the Lord and that today experiences, through this celebration, its most authentic epiphany. The word I want to say is for everyone, before and beyond the legitimate ministerial and charismatic distinctions that the Spirit raises among us: “Let us return to the community”.

Let us return and let us remain in Jerusalem, let us return and let us remain in the Church. Like the disciples of Emmaus, we have been pushed out or away from the community by our fears, our laziness, our miscalculations and our disappointed hopes. But the Lord who delivers Himself into our hands, His Love that accepts to die for us to the point of forgiveness, makes us return full of joy to the encounter with our brothers and sisters. Let us allow the Spirit, as He does with the bread and wine, to transform us into the Church.

Let us allow the Master to serve us by destroying our obstinate resistance to forgiveness and mercy. The Master turns Himself into our slave and shows us the true meaning of charity towards one another. Charity is shown not only with words but through actions.

We become a community of faith as ministers of the Word and Sacraments and as pastors of God’s people when we learn to listen to those around us before trying to teach them; when we learn to experience suffering before providing our own ready-made remedies for it; when we learn to experience God’s forgiveness before administering it to the others. We become a community of faith as lay members of the Church when we learn to collaborate in Christ's mission of love, by opening our eyes to what He accomplishes beyond the boundaries of our families, our close relatives and friends, our ethnic and cultural values, our social and political aspirations – however just they may seem to us. When He washed the feet of his Apostles, Jesus made no distinction between Judas who betrayed him, Peter who denied him, or John, his beloved disciple. He served them all equally, looking upon them with the same love with which He embraced the world from the cross. The only power the Church has is the cross of Jesus, and His love that inhabits it.

We are Church: therefore let us become Church!

Let us become Church by listening with conviction to God and to our brothers and sisters. May listening be the concrete form of ecclesial charity, which then becomes hospitable openness to others, without preclusion or prejudice. Let us learn to listen to one another before speaking, let us learn to make space rather than occupy it, let us learn to open up rather than shut ourselves off.

Let us unite in communal participation to prayer and celebration. Let the liturgy be a welcoming of God and of each other, so that we “become in Christ one body and one spirit”. Let us learn to celebrate not for show or self-assertion, but to rediscover the relationship that grounds our being for God and for others. Let us be attentive so that our worship may become one with our life, rather than becoming a place of self-exhibition.

Let us become Church in priestly brotherhood and in lay co-responsibility. This is not because union is strength, but because through this – and only through this – will we be recognized as disciples of the Lord: “if we have love for one another”. The credibility of our witness depends in fact on our communion.

May the oils we consecrate make the dynamics of our synodality more fluid.

May the washing of feet make us capable of walking together.

May the Eucharist celebrated and received rekindle in us a passion for the Church and her mission.

May the company of our brothers and sisters, on earth and in heaven, sustain and console us.

And so, from our dispersions, we will be led back to unity. Amen!

       † Pierbattista Pizzaballa

        Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem