Due to our long reading of the Passion, my homily today will be brief. When does Lent end? The official end of Lent is on Holy Thursday. Once the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins, we begin what we call the Sacred Triduum, the Sacred Three Days, our High Holy Days. Interesting enough, when our Holy Thursday service ends, there is no last blessing, no dismissal, and no concluding hymn. This is because the service doesn’t really end. Just part one ends.
Part two takes place on Good Friday. On Friday there is no opening hymn. We simply start up where we left off on Thursday.
Part three, of course, is the Easter Vigil service and Easter Morning Mass. If possible, you are cordially invited to participate in all three parts of the Sacred Three Days.
One: On Holy Thursday, the church’s colors change from the penitential Lenten purple to the festive color of white. We begin our three days celebrating the gift of the Mass. At the first Mass, the Last Supper, Jesus gave us the Eucharist, his body and blood for our food and drink. So this Thursday is the night we celebrate our communion with the Lord and with one another.
Earlier Jesus told his followers to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”(Matthew 19:19) At the Last Supper, Jesus raised the bar. He told his apostles and us to “love one another as I love you.”(John 15:12) To demonstrate this, Jesus washed the apostles' feet. So this Thursday is the night when a group of people will get their feet washed here in church. This is to remind us of what being a follower of Christ is all about. After the service there will be time for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Two: On Good Friday, the color is red. No, we don’t wear black in sorrow. We wear red, the color of blood. We need blood for life. Good Friday reminds us that Christ shed his blood that we may have life, life free from sin, and life everlasting in heaven. I like to make a connection with Valentine’s Day. On that day, the color of most cards and gifts expressing love is red. Red on Good Friday reminds us that Christ died out of love for us. God is the source of all real love. Good Friday is God’s valentine.
If Lent ends on Holy Thursday, why is Good Friday a day of fast and abstinence? Isn’t fasting a penance? The fast on Ash Wednesday is indeed a penitential fast. It is a fast to show sorrow for our sins. It is a fast to discipline our wills. But the fast of Good Friday is called a “Paschal Fast”. It is not meant as a penance. It is a fast in expectation, a fast that “looks forward to the big event”.
On Thanksgiving, we fast from lunch so we can really enjoy the special dinner. A child on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa, is so excited, he or she is not thinking about food. This is sort of a “fast” of expectation.
A paschal fast is for those expecting something. It is for those who are expecting to be baptized, and for all of us who are preparing to celebrate the memory of our own baptism.
Three: On Holy Saturday evening and on Easter Sunday morning the color is gold or festive white. This is the most solemn feast in our Church year.
It is the time when our new adult members are baptized and confirmed. It is the day when we all renew our baptismal promises. It is the day we celebrate in a most special way what we celebrate at each Mass – that Christ has died, yes, but that Christ is risen and lives among us.
Death has lost its power.
Our sins are forgiven.
We belong to God.
Come to the celebration! Come to the feast! Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. May we all have a very Holy Triduum and a very colorful life in God.