Holy Thursday Reflections from Fr. Tony Kadavil:
For Illustrations go to:
From Fr. Roger Swenson:
Compels Omnipotence to bend
To earth and save a sinner there.
The very pillars of the earth
And cause all sullied hearts to quake?
To homesick hymns of Galilee
From voices straining to be strong.
No Caesar marshalling his hosts
To make the nations praise his name.
Lord of Life, you humbled yourself so that we might see ourselves in you. In you we see our high destiny. In you we see our model of service to our brothers and sisters. As you fed your followers with your Body and Blood, so let us nourish the needy of our world with the gift of self. Amen.
From Fr. John Conley, SJ
And Jesus took the cup, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!”
The essence of the Eucharist is union with the sacrifice of Jesus. The Second Vatican Council put this beautifully and poetically:
At the Last Supper our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and blood to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross. He entrusted to the Church a memorial of His death and resurrection, .....a sacrament of love, .....a sign of unity, .....a bond of charity, .....a paschal banquet in which .....Christ is consumed, .....the mind is filled with grace, .....and the pledge of future glory is given to us. (Sacrosantum Concilium–the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, 47)
There are some who treat the Eucharist as merely a symbol of the community. The Eucharist is infinitely more than a meal of fellowship. On the other hand, there are some who treat the Eucharist only as an time of intense meditation. Receiving the Eucharist is more than the union of an individual with the Lord. The Eucharist is the living memorial of Calvary. The Gift of the Last Supper is the sacramental expression of the crucifixion of the Lord. This is the New Covenant in his Blood written within the hearts of Jesus’ disciples.
The ability to take bread and wine and transform the reality of this existence into the Body and Blood of the Lord was given by the Lord to his disciples. “Do this in memory of me.” They were given the power to act in the person of the Lord, or, using the theological expression, in persona Christi. This power continues in the Church through the grace of God and the mystery of the sacrament of orders. Priests take on the person of Jesus. The Liturgy of Holy Thursday, therefore, focuses on these two sacraments, the Eucharist and Holy Orders, uniting them both to the sacrifice of the Cross. Through the grace of Holy Orders, the people are provided with the New Covenant of the Body and Blood of Lord.
This is all dogmatic theology, the theology of what we believe. It is useless without its practical application to real life. We who consume the Lord must be consumed by the Lord. The Eucharist is only fully realized in our lives when we live as a Eucharistic People. We cannot be satisfied with consuming the Lord. We must be consumed by the Lord. His life must become our lives. We must be Christians in the fullest meaning of the word, people who are so consumed by the reality of the Lord that we have been transformed. We consume the Eucharist so we can be consumed by Jesus Christ.
Before the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then said to them, “What you have seen me do for you so you must also do for others.” The Lord’s action was prophetic and symbolic. It was prophetic in that it suggested the extent of what the Lord would do in emptying himself for his people. Not even a slave in the time of the Lord could be required to wash the feet of a visitor. This was too demeaning. Yet Jesus does this as a prophetic expression of how much he would humble himself for the sake of his people. The washing of the feet is a prophetic action that points to the Lord’s humbling himself on the Cross.
We consume the Eucharist so we can be consumed by Jesus Christ. He is our Everything. Uniting our lives to his life give our lives meaning and purpose and fulfillment. It doesn’t end here though. There is infinitely more to life than the here and now. Being consumed by Christ unites us to the Eternal; for the One Who Always Was brings those He has consumed before the Throne of the One Who Always Is, the Ancient of Days, the Glory of the Father, the Fire of the Spirit.
Let us pray: Lord, we consume you whenever we receive communion. Give us the courage to allow you to consume us. May we allow our Eucharistic union with you to permeate every aspect of our lives so that we might truly be a Eucharistic People.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1) A challenge for humble service. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ's presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting any reward. 2) A loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the Self-giving model of Jesus Who shares with us His own Body and Blood and Who enriches us with His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth - with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 3) An invitation to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: "Go forth, the Mass is ended," really means, “Go in peace to love and serve one another’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ Whom we carry with us.
1 The Stole and the Towel is the title of a book, which sums up the message of the Italian bishop, Tony Bello, who died of cancer at the age of 58. On Maundy Thursday of 1993, while on his deathbed, he dictated a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese. He called upon them to be bound by "the stole and the towel." The stole symbolizes union with Christ in the Eucharist, and the towel symbolizes union with humanity by service. The priest is called upon to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist and with the people as their servant. Today we celebrate the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood: the feast of "the stole and the towel," the feast of love and service.
Jesus’ transformation of his last Seder meal (Last Supper) into the first Eucharistic celebration is described for us in today’s second reading and Gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, began His Passover celebration by washing the feet of His disciples (a service assigned to household servants), as a lesson in humble service, proving that He “came to the world not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). He followed the ritual of the Jewish Passover meal up to the second cup of wine. After serving the roasted lamb as a third step, Jesus offered His own Body and Blood as food and drink under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, He instituted the Holy Eucharist as the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with His people as their living, Heavenly Food. This was followed by the institution of the priesthood with the command, “Do this in memory of me." Jesus concluded the ceremony with a long speech incorporating His command of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Thus, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at a private Passover meal with His disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; Luke 21:7-23). He served as both the Host and the Victim of the Sacrifice. He became the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist had previously predicted (John 1:29, 36), Who takes away the sins of the world.
1) We need to serve humbly. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ's presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, even when they don't deserve our love. It is to do good to them, even if they don't return the favor. It is to consider others' needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even if they don't say, "I'm sorry." It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know that we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we're treated unfairly. It is to make adjustments in our plans in order to serve others' needs, without expecting any reward.