Tonight’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps it is fitting that the post of tonight’s homily is number 300 for this blog. Enjoy!
This evening, the Church enters into the great celebration of the Triduum. We recall the culmination of Jesus’ life and ministry; those events that give meaning to the mystery of Who Jesus is and all that He preached, and all He claimed to be.
The Old Testament proclaimed Christ, in both word and symbol. The people of Israel looked for a savior, a messiah, an anointed one, who would come to redeem them. The Prophet Zechariah proclaimed: “Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, Humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9)
The Psalms spoke of the hope of the people for their savior, and indeed, these very psalms would become the prayers of Jesus, as we see in Psalm 56: quite possibly a prayer he prayed this very night:
Have mercy on me, God, men crush me;
They fight me all day long and oppress me.
My foes crush me all day long,
For many fight proudly against me.
When I fear, I will trust in you,
In God whose word I praise.
In God I trust, I shall not fear:
What can mortal man do to me?
All day long they distort my words,
All their thought is to harm me.
They band together in ambush,
Track me down and seek my life.
More and more, I take a certain comfort in the realization that from the beginning of time, humanity has wrestled with God. (Meaning, this isn’t just a recent development!) Our history, biblical or otherwise, demonstrates clearly the earnest struggle either in living one’s life in an expansive relationship with God, or only within the limited context of the world; the finite parameters of time and space; the fleeting horizon of self. Even when God chose to enter into our human existence in the person of Jesus, there were still those who rejected Him and His teaching; either unable to believe that God could and would take on our human existence, or unwilling to embrace the consequences of living in obedience to the fullness of truth revealed in this God / Man, Jesus Christ.
The depths of that truth are what we reflect upon in these holiest of days.
In the midst of this human struggle, of this divine drama, in the context of the ultimate questions that make the human person question if there is not more to life than ‘this life’, the human heart still longs to look upon the face of God, which is discovered in the face of Jesus.
In John’s Gospel, there is a singular ‘key’ to this desire to see Jesus. In the events leading up to the celebration of the Passover Feast, a group of Greeks went to Philip asking to see Jesus. (John 12: 21) Philip and Andrew took their request to Jesus, and got a very interesting response. We do not know if these Greeks were given an audience with Jesus or not, but these are the words of Jesus to their request, and they give insight into the events of Jesus’ approaching passion, death and resurrection:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” (John 12:23-26)
This response of Jesus to the request of the Greeks is as if he were saying, ‘Soon, through the events of my passion, death, and resurrection, all people will have access to me.’ This is God’s great desire, accomplished in Christ, to be available and present to all His people, for intimacy, for love, for life. This mystery of Christ, the Grain of Wheat fallen to the earth to die, is the kernel of the mystery we recall tonight, and during these holy days of the Triduum, that lead to the new life of the Resurrection.
For us to “see Jesus”, to know the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, and the revelation He IS in expressing God’s love for the world, it was necessary that he suffer, die, and rise again. Not only are these holy events of the paschal mystery the key to understanding Jesus…but they are also his greatest teaching to us regarding the path of every human person to achieve wholeness, and integrity.
Just as He could only reveal the depths of the Father’s love through the total gift of self, in complete obedience to the Father’s will, the same holds true for every person. We too, are to learn how to live in obedience to the Father’s will, to live lovingly and selflessly for others. As Jesus came forth from the Father, remained in intimate communion with the Father, and now prepares to return to the Father, so each of us is drawn forth from the love of God, for a fleeting journey through this life, to be in communion with the Father through Jesus, only to return again to the embrace of God in eternity.
John’s Gospel sheds further light upon this topic by telling us that Jesus came that we might share in this Life of the Father, that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Only by incorporation into this Life of Jesus are we thus able to dwell in the one flock, which Jesus comes to re-establish. (John 10:16) And we will recall the words of Jesus in the days ahead: “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down freely, and take it up again.” (John 10:17-18)
Because it is the will of the Father through Jesus to share His Life with us, He provides us through the Church the sacred meal of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the means, the ‘instrument’ through which Christ now shares His Life with us. The Eucharist is the continuing self-gift of Jesus by which He makes us into the one family of God.
Thus, adoration and ‘communion’ are part and parcel of Eucharist. Adoration is our personal acknowledgement that Christ is truly present to us; that He may personally communicate with us, and we may know of His intimate presence, care, concern and love for us. I have long lost track of the many hours I have spent in silent prayer and communication with the Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament. He truly does continue to generously ‘give Himself’ to us today, freely, and fully. He is “The” Faithful Spouse. He is access to an abundance of Life!
Communion, the re-establishment of the One Family of God is also accomplished in every Eucharist as Christ shares with us what He handed on to St. Paul: “This is my body that is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:23-26)
Because Christ has transcended this worldly life and conquered death, He is now accessible to all people. In the Eucharist, we participate in His Life. Through the Eucharist, through our unity with Christ, we share a communion with all of humanity. Thus, that this communion may continually grow, Christ gives us this night the great commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
God in the person of Jesus, has humbled Himself completely. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has given Himself completely. God, in the person of Christ, has come to our aid, and He now sends us in His name, strengthened by His Body and Blood, to live selfless, loving lives for others. Listen again to the words of Jesus:
“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:12-15)
Please, God, may it be so!0