Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper
(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15)
It has been noted that the Eucharist celebrated today has no ending. Rather, after Communion, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for continuing reflection. Similarly, the service conducted tomorrow does not begin with an introduction, nor does it end with the usual blessing and sending forth. And then on Saturday, there is likewise no greeting as the liturgy gets underway; there is only an exhortation about participating reverently. The Church deliberately designs the services in this way to teach that Christ’s Eucharistic meal, his passion and death, and his resurrection are but one saving event for all to partake in.
At the heart of today’s gospel Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. It is a symbolic action to be emulated not just by the priest once a year but, much more to the point, by all Christians every day. It is accomplished by ordinary service like ministers of Holy Communion visiting shut-ins or volunteers driving an elderly person to his or her doctor. People will regularly do these things for loved ones, but Jesus has in mind rendering similar service to virtual strangers. As his love extended to every person, so his disciples’ love cannot be limited by prejudice or convenience.
We can take advantage of the time before the Eucharist tonight to reflect on how we may render the service that Christ’s asks and to pray for the grace to implement the plans we make. If we find ourselves wondering whether we can do it, we should look forward to the Passion of Christ which will be recalled tomorrow to consider what Christ has done for us. We also might anticipate the Easter service when we are assured of the strength to live out the life to which he has called us.