Since the 7th grade, in my parish school, the Eucharist has been a key part of my life. In those days we had to attend the 9:00 Sunday mass as a class with Sister Dolores sitting with us.
One Sunday – when the priest turned around and presented the host to us, it was mass facing the wall in those days, I heard the priest say to ME – this is the lamb of God. He said it to me. So, I jumped up and climbed over my classmates in the pew. They were not happy with me, afraid we would get in trouble. But I made my way to the altar rail, the first of about 1,000 students in the church that Sunday. Sister Dolores never said a word to me. It was a real sacred moment for me. Today is that sacred moment, Jesus, is our Lamb of God.
We heard in Exodus that, Our Lord God, Adoni, said to Moses: This day shall be a memorial feast for you which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord as a perpetual institution. The Passover Supper.
The Lord Jesus renewed this mandate in his name on Holy Thursday. And he gave us his own Passover supper. He is the paschal lamb. He gave himself to us so we now rejoice in the banquet of new life, the remembrance of covenant life that Eucharist celebrates. We receive his essential reality, the fully divine and fully human Christ in his being of total love for the father and for us. This is the real presence of Christ – pure Love. Our paschal lamb through his perfect love changes suffering into a gift of redemptive self-sacrifice.
Jesus fulfills the ancient sacrificial ritual of the Passover supper, by sharing his own body as bread and to seal the covenant, we now drink his blood, the cup of blessing, now our Thanksgiving – our Eucharist. So, we celebrate His covenant renewal that nourishes us on the Christian journey to offer ourselves in sacrificial love to be his disciples in the world.
Jesus gave us an example of this servant leadership by washing the feet of his disciples. This was the sign of his total act of service that he would give in his Passion and death, offering himself in transforming love for all.
Holy Thursday invites us to do the same. The call now is to take every opportunity presented to us to be of service. This surely is our daily challenge, but the Eucharist energizes the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. These help us to transform our mind, our heart and will, for participation in the divine nature that Christ shares with us. These virtues dispose us to live in a relationship with the Trinity, because God is our origin, our motivation and our life. Our whole spiritual life is for this transformation to take place within. We then can fulfill Christ’s command to love one another as He loves us.
Eucharist is the remedy to our wayward and fragile world. We see it in the current polarization that is fracturing the body of Christ at every level of the human community. Fr. Sam Sawyer writes in “America” to address this problem, he says, in God we are all one. We need to learn and relearn we are bound together in the life of the church at a level deeper than our own agreement. By mutual trust and faith, we can live who we are meant to be. Communion is a cooperation in God‘s grace as members of the body of Christ. Receiving the Eucharist can bring us to this communion in our experience, if our hearts are truly open to Christ and his truth.
We grow in faith, hope and love at every paschal moment. So today, as we receive the glorified body and blood of Christ we are filled with deeper faith in Him, we grow in love as we embrace God’s all-encompassing love in Christ, and we deepen our hope of sharing more and more in the love that the father has for us. We use the imagery as St. Paul also uses in Ephesians that Christ is our bridegroom, an ancient Cistercian prayer says, “Jesus the Bridegroom of our soul: wed yourself to me for all eternity.” I love that prayer. Indeed, he is our soul mate. And as our bridegroom, we are invited to the eternal wedding feast of unending love. Rowan Willliams, in his book, “Being Christian”, writes about the Church as the bride, he says, “Christ gave himself up for her, to make her holy, purifying her in the bath of water by the Power of the Word. To present to himself a glorious church, holy, immaculate, without stain or winkle or any such thing so that she might be holy and without blemish.” Eucharist is the visible sign of the divine bridegroom’s love, for His bride the Church and so each of us.
We have faith in the love of our bridegroom who gives himself to us. His gift of Eucharist is our hope that we can love like him and give of ourselves. In communion, He is present to us in his infinite love.
So, my friends, the paschal mystery is encouraging and deepening our faith, hope and love and leading us to God and to one another in love and humility, seeking always to be Christ in the world. Today is sacred time of renewal and thanksgiving.