St Stephen Lewisham

7th April 2004

Maundy Thursday

‘Most sure in all His ways’


When God instituted the Passover, which Jesus celebrated with his Apostles on the first Maundy Thursday, he commanded that it must be "eaten in haste".

We too have many things to get through tonight: Washing the Feet, the Mass, the Procession to the Altar of Repose and the watch till Midnight. It’s therefore proper that the Ministry of the Word should be short and to the point.

So, as you have often heard me say, since poetry and hymns in particular are a wonderful way of saying a great deal in very few words, here are some ideas which come from Cardinal Newman’s poem, Praise to the Holiest in the height.

Praise to the holiest in the height/And in the depth be praise:/In all his words most wonderful/Most sure in all his ways.

Most sure in all his ways: God the Father planned the supreme sacrifice of his only-begotten Son before ever the earth and the world were made. The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, so far from being some sort of de-railing of the Divine Plan for the Redemption of the world, lay for certain at the very heart of it. What took place lay within the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God".

That certainty, it seems, was withheld from the human Jesus, God the Son. Hence his prayer to the Father as he struggled with his very human doubts and fears in Gethsemane that "this cup might pass away from me". Though he suspected, correctly, that his Father’s answer might well be "No", he was nevertheless beset by all the doubts common to mankind. "He offered up prayers with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death – but he learned obedience through what he suffered," as the writer to the Hebrews tells us.

O loving wisdom of our God/When all was sin and shame/A Second Adam to the fight/And to the rescue came.

A Second Adam: Our salvation was achieved by one who was like ourselves, a Son of Adam. God the Father did not – probably could not – reconcile the world to himself without "paying the price of sin". That price could only be paid by one like us – mortal and human – but also by one who, unlike us but like God the Father, is both perfect and divine – the Man Jesus Christ.

.O wisest love that flesh and blood/Which did in Adam fail, Should strive afresh against the foe/Should strive and should prevail.

Flesh and blood: The whole Incarnation was a matter of flesh and blood. Let’s not kid ourselves that our faith is just a matter of being spiritual. In the words of St Paul "in our flesh we complete Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church." "Without shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin".

And in the Garden secretly/And on the cross on high/Should teach his brethren and inspire/To suffer and to die.

Inspire to suffer and to die: From that first Good Friday onwards, men and women have given their lives to Jesus because they have been inspired to "suffer and to die" for him. Some of these we shall remember by name during the Mass. The two questions which we have to ask ourselves are:

"Would I be prepared ‘to suffer and to die’ if that were God’s will for me as it was for Jesus?"; and

"If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?"

Well, there was enough evidence to convict Jesus Christ and he did suffer and die – but by his Cross and Precious Blood he has redeemed the world.

So – "Praise to the Holiest in the height!"

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