Maundy Thursday: “Walking in Love Through Sacrificial Service”
This is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the word mandate. Jesus, who was facing death, gave His disciples, representing the Church, two instructions as if to give His last will and testament. The first instruction was: observe the Eucharist; and the second one: love one another. Jesus said, “I will build My church.” He did not say, “Build Me a mega-church.” He said to observe the Eucharist and love one another, and this is how He will build His church.
The Eucharist is a sacrament, a visible grace. The song says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” It is not something earned, but something God gives that we accept by faith through grace, not by understanding. In the Old Testament, we see the shadow of the things to come. In the New Testament, we get the fullness of truth. John said in the first chapter of his gospel that the law has been given to Moses, and grace and truth came with Jesus Christ. If we understand it, it means that we don’t really understand and we miss the point because it is a mystery, unfathomable, and infinite.
For two thousand years, the Church has seen the Eucharist as central to our faith, as central as the Church is. The New Covenant is not a text or a set of literature and books, but a meal. “This is My blood of the new Covenant.” It is a meal that the Church has been having for two thousand years. A meal is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus said, “You eat of Me. You ingest Me. You assimilate Me in your being.”
The Church has been observing the Eucharist. The Scriptures have a place in our lives, but the Eucharist is the source and the summit of our Christian life. We say that we need to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, yes, but we can’t do it without the source of life, which is the Eucharist. We are destined to be conformed to the image of God, His Son, by assimilating His nature in us through the Eucharist, by grace. We can try to walk in a manner worthy of our calling and be like Jesus, but we can’t do this without the grace that we need to run the race. Without Jesus, we are nothing. We take Him into our being, and as we do, He increases, and we decrease.
Partaking of Jesus’ body and blood makes us to be conformed to His image and likeness, and makes us integrated into His body. We are one in this mystical Body. We are one with Jesus and we are one with each other. Being one with Jesus, then, we can fulfil His second commandment which is to love one another. Jesus instituted the Last Supper first to enable us to love one another. As we partake of His body by consecration, we also are made one Body by consumption, which makes us one. We don’t just become metaphorically brothers and sisters, but if we drink of the same blood, it is the same blood that is in each one of us. It is consanguinity – blood related – which makes us a family – one Body, one family. The bread that we break is a partaking of the body of Christ. Yes, we are unworthy to receive of Jesus, as we confess, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You should enter my roof…” but think of this: eleven out of twelve attendees during the Last Supper deserted Jesus that same night. One betrayed Him, another denied Him and the rest, save for one, run away. They were not worthy, but Jesus accepted them. Jesus accepts us with our weaknesses. What we need to do is to respond to the grace given to us.
The prodigal son has always been the son – in his father’s house and in the pigpen. Where would you rather be a son? We respond by not leaving. We need to stay faithful and committed in the house of God and get the fullness of the benefit of His grace. We can be a son and isolate ourselves. The disciples were accepted and sat at the table with Jesus, and yet denied and betrayed Him. In John 6, Jesus said, “Unless You eat of My body and drink of My blood…” The disciples asked, “How can we do that?” Imagine how detestable this is in the mind of the Jews who were commanded in the Old Testament not to eat animal with its blood and then Jesus tells them, “Eat My flesh…drink My blood.” This is why many of His disciples walked away.
Jesus said, “Unless you eat of My body and drink of My blood, you have no life in yourselves.” We don’t just “eat” but we need to gnaw and savour the body and blood of Christ and get the fullness of it. Don’t just fulfil a duty. Don’t just fulfil an obligation. Have an encounter. This is not just all about the Eucharist during the Mass, but the whole of the liturgy in order to savour the fullness of the grace that God intends for us to have. Unless we do this, we will have no life in us. How much we put in is basically how much we put out. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Remember Jesus, not just as an obligation, but to assimilate Him and ingest His being in our lives.
Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Washing is about accepting our brothers with their weakness. Not exposing their dirt, but washing and covering it. Jesus shows an example which we are to follow. After receiving His grace, we might choose to walk away from Him, to hang ourselves or weep bitterly or stay in the pigpen for a considerable time and one day regret it, but Jesus tells us, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Then, we can love one another and preserve the unity of the Body. Then, we can build His church and be witness His witnesses in Judea, in Samaria, up to outermost parts of the earth.
This is the two thousand year way of Jesus and still the way it is in the kingdom of our God.