Today we embark upon the Paschal Triduum, which are the three days leading up to Easter. Holy Thursday is a feast day, a day of celebration. We are celebrating many things: the institution of the priesthood, the gift of Jesus to us in the Eucharist, and we are remembering that we are to serve as He served. But everything is really wrapped in the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the sacraments. The Eucharist is no less than the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. That is, He leaves us Himself. When Jesus told the apostles that He would be with them always, and when at the end of Matthew's gospel we hear Him say, "I will be with you until the end of time" it is a reminder, among other things, that He is indeed present with us in so many ways, most notably through the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
In John's Gospel, during the Last Supper Jesus takes off his outer garment and begins to wash the feet of the apostles. All twelve have their feet washed. Yes, Judas, too. That should not shock us too much since all twelve betrayed, abandoned, and denied Him later that night, and He knew that was going to happen. Jesus did what was usually reserved for the lowest slave, the washing of the guests feet. This was a sign of welcome in those days, but Jesus is modeling how we are to serve. We are to treat everyone with this same welcoming spirit and with the same humility. I like to say that any authentic spirituality and authentic prayer should always lead us outward to service of others. Jesus washing the feet of the apostles is why I say this.
It can be a healing act for others to receive a kindness from us that they may be sadly unaccustomed to receiving. We never know the brokenness or hurts of other people, so a kindness can be a great act of service. As St. Francis of Assisi said to his followers: "We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way." Maybe we can invite someone who has not been to church in a long time to accompany us to celebrate Easter this year. Maybe that is the unity that He is calling us to spiritually. Maybe we know someone who feels like his or her life is falling apart or who feels lost spiritually. Coming somewhere where they can be fed with Word and Eucharist might be a way home. Maybe a simple kindness might be a way to healing and unity.
Even in the newness of being in his position, Pope Francis has begun to model this so beautifully. He has eschewed any trappings of power and position, living as he has always lived, even if he is now pope. He has showed great welcome and warmth to everyone he meets, especially the most lowly. He has made personal contact with many, (much to the dismay to the Swiss Guard who are to watch over him for his safety). And he will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass with youthful offenders (many of whom are Muslim) in a prison, washing their feet and modeling the service Jesus taught the night of the Last Supper. Pope Francis is living the Eucharist; that is, he is being Christ to others, especially the outcasts. Is that not what the office of Pope is all about? His is Christ's representative on earth, the Vicar of Christ. I think many of us can learn so much from this man.
It is the Eucharist which is the power which enables us to do any of this. Nothing is expected of us except our sincerity and our desire. The Eucharist fills all emptiness, all hungers, all thirsts. It is freely given by Jesus for us, to keep us ever close to His heart. He lays down His life freely to give us this great gift, which enables us to carry our cross also, to die the little deaths in our lives, and to hope to rise again. But that story is for Friday. Today let us begin to spend time reflecting on these great gifts and let us enter into the celebration tomorrow with joy and thanksgiving. May we ask have the grace to go the distance into the night that follows! I will meet you in the Eucharist. Peace.
Heart Speaks to Heart