Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 15:23-26; John 13:1-15)

At a Jewish Passover meal the youngest at table asks, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” We might propose a similar question for our meeting this evening. How is this mass different from other masses? The answer is that in this mass we give ourselves in a special way to remembering.

The word remember literally means to put the component parts or members back together. When we remember we recreate what existed in the past in order to make it present to us now. This evening we remember three events found in the Scripture readings. First, we recall God’s liberating the Israelites from their exile in Egypt. Second, we reestablish Jesus’ initiation of the Eucharist on the night before he died. And finally, we bring to mind Jesus’ astonishing humility when he washes his disciples’ feet.

Dogs can remember in a sense, and we regularly pay a false compliment to computers by speaking of their memory. We must distinguish our act of remembering from the trivial memories attributed to animals and machines. When humans remember, we assign to a past event a meaning that shapes our lives. In our first memory this evening we understand the liberation of the Israelites as our own deliverance from the captivity of sin accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our remembrance of the first Eucharist allows us to imagine the celestial banquet in which we hope to participate with Jesus, the Father, the saints, and all our beloved. Our final instance of remembering shows us how we will reach our heavenly goal. We are to become like Jesus by imitating his loving service to others.