Image: Aurora over Holy Name of Mary Church, Tsiigehtchic
Tonight we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, a phrase that at first might seem redundant. After all is it not the Lord’s supper that we celebrate as we come together each Sunday as a community? Yet the Church highlights this night of the year as a time when we focus on the breaking of bread and the washing of feet for what it means to those of us who call Jesus Christ our Savior.
This is perhaps as it should be, after all, how often do we really reflect deeply on the mysteries in which we partake week after week, year after year? Quite often it is the case that we are carried along by our Sunday worship and fail to appreciate the true meaning of what it is that we celebrate.
Each Sunday that we come to Church we hear the same words over and over again. “Do this in memory of Me”. The image that I fear this instills is a passive picture of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples telling them that after he is gone they should do likewise, break bread in remembrance. But didn’t the disciples also remember that it was not just how Jesus broke bread but about how Jesus’ whole life was devoted to overcoming injustice in the world, to freeing prisoners, restoring sight to the blind and healing the lame?
This is why John’s Gospel is so important in understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. In his story John doesn’t even get to the breaking of the bread. Instead he spends his time describing the period before the meal.
The disciples, having come from all directions through the dusty streets of Jerusalem, have arrived at the upper room. There is probably an awkward silence as each disciple hopes the next will look after the task of fetching water so that the meal can commence. None is willing to lose face in the group, as there is already appearing to be an unspoken competition as to who in the group deserves to be ranked above the others.
In the midst of this social chess match Jesus quietly and unassumingly goes about giving them something to remember.
That a man would wash another man’s feet was something to be avoided. That a master should wash the feet of his followers was a scandal and Peter reacted accordingly. Yet that was the way with Jesus, upsetting the status quo to make his point about what it really means to love. Jesus took on the role of a servant to show to his disciples that to truly love another means more than using words to express nice sentiments.
To love someone requires action, and quite often action that is very difficult. It takes sacrifice. As I look around the communities where I work I see this kind of sacrifice every day. Grandparents open their homes to their Grandchildren when parents must leave town for work in the south. A worn couch in an already crowded home is offered as a refuge to someone who has no place to stay.
It was this commitment to personal sacrifice out of love for one’s neighbour that Jesus wanted his disciples to remember as they came together and broke bread. It is a commitment that we need to continue to practice if we wish to be called Christian.