Holy Thursday

From Fr. Jude Botelho: 

The Book of Exodus tells us how the Lord ordered the Israelites to keep the Paschal meal. Each family had to kill a lamb and smear the doorposts with the blood of the lamb. The lamb should be roasted and eaten standing to signify their readiness to pass from the land of slavery to the land of promise. It would also signify the passing of the angel of the Lord over the houses of the Israelites marked by the blood of the lamb. To remember this Passover, God ordered the Israelites to keep the Feast of the Passover.

The lamb sacrificed was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and the father of the family would explain to the children, year after year, what the meal and the feast meant. Our Eucharistic celebration is a commemoration of the same Paschal meal, reminding us that we are called to pass from the land of slavery to sin to the land of freedom; we are called to pass over from wherever we are to where the Lord wants us to be. It calls to mind the fact that God has passed over our sins thanks to the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ through whose death we are given life. 

Depiction of the Eucharist

 An old Church in Cologne had a telling illustration of the Bread of life on the door of the church. The door had four panels, each portraying a biblical scene relating to the Eucharist. The first panel had six stone jars, depicting the miracle of Cana; the second showed five loaves and two fishes, referring to the feeding of the five thousand; the third panel portrayed Jesus and the twelve seated at the table in the Upper Room; and the last panel had three figures -Jesus breaking bread with two of his disciples in the Inn at Emmaus. The common interpretation of the first miracle depicted is that the Lord came to the rescue of the young couple who were embarrassed having run out of wine. The artist's message was that just as Jesus had turned the water into wine so one day he would change wine into his blood, thus prefiguring the Eucharist. The second panel shows the feeding of the five thousand. In Capernaum he gave ordinary bread; at the Last Supper he would give the bread of Life. The third panel reveals the institution of the Eucharist. In the Upper Room Jesus does more than change water into wine, he changes wine into his blood. He does more than multiply loaves; he changes bread into his body. In the last panel we see in the meal at Emmaus the first post-resurrection Eucharist. First in the scriptures and then in the breaking of bread they learn to recognize the Lord in their midst and their hearts are warmed at his presence. The four panels thus progressively reveal the true meaning of the Eucharist.

Mark Link

 John, who wrote his gospel more than fifty years after the last supper had taken place, does not narrate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, since Matthew, Mark and Luke had already done it. But John wanted to remind the Christians of what Jesus had done on the night of the Last Supper. The central point of his teaching that night was his new commandment. To drive home this message he tells us how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper. No other Gospel narrates this event. John was well aware that the Eucharist was the greatest gift of the Lord to the Church. Yet he preferred to describe a ritual that Jesus performed that night, which would highlight the true meaning of "Do this in memory of me!" The celebration of the Eucharist becomes relevant and meaningful only when we have washed one another's feet. After years of participating in the Eucharist, have we understood what the Lord is asking of us? Unfortunately, we have made the Eucharist a ritual to be observed but with no bearing on our daily lives. We can participate in the Eucharist daily and yet not let it affect our lives in any way. Similarly we can on this day participate in the ritual of the washing of the feet and yet not see the implications of this new commandment. To celebrate the Eucharist we have to live it. To live as a follower of Jesus Christ we have to wash one another's feet, we have to be servants; we have to live lives of humble service. 

Body of Christ!

 Once I was giving out Holy Communion in a crowded church. Just as I was about to place the host on a lady's tongue, another person jostled her by wedging into a narrow space besides her. She immediately closed her mouth before receiving, turned to the intruder and called her a bitch, then turned back to me, opened her mouth and said "Amen" to the body of Christ! So often we receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist and fail to recognize it in the pew. So often the tongue that receives the Lord in Holy Communion is only too ready to lacerate the body of Christ over a cup of coffee after Mass.

James Feeban

Film: 'Entertaining Angels': The Dorothy Day Story

 Twenty-year-old Dorothy Day was a reporter and a part of an elite socialist group in New York. Dorothy encounters a homeless man and a friendly nun and follows them to a Church that has opened a soup kitchen for the poor. She often goes to the kitchen to help. She begins to read Catholic books and gets converted. She is urged to start feeding the poor and caring for the sick. During the 1930's Dorothy becomes even more socially active. She opens hospitality houses and tries to improve the lives of the poor. -Dorothy led a very unconventional life by Catholic standards. Her pre-conversion past and abortion, her decision not to marry and remain a single parent are interesting because she used these unusual circumstances to follow Christ by helping the poor and homeless. She is a twentieth century model of lay holiness. Dorothy Day, like the apostles, was someone who did not have faith at first. She gradually accepted the gift of faith and grew in it by serving others. She spent most of her adult life living Jesus' commandment of love. She personally cared for the indigent and homeless people in many ways, from preparing and serving meals to washing their feet. This was the life of Dorothy Day. An exasperated volunteer agreed to go on working when she wanted to quit because Dorothy had said, "You never know, you might be entertaining angels." - On this Holy Thursday we are reminded to blend our beliefs and actions into one life lived for God.

Peter Malone in 'Lights Camera.Faith!' 

The Ultimate Acceptance

 An orthodox Jewish father came to my university office to discuss a serious problem. His son was becoming romantically involved with a young Catholic woman. The old patriarch was well-disposed to Christianity, very tolerant of its beliefs and practices. But it was 'crossing the line' to think of his son marrying a gentile outside the synagogue and perhaps even becoming a Catholic. He was disappointed in the young woman because of the present turn of events. He had readily accepted her as his son's friend but felt that she should have been more sensitive to the limits of the relationship, to its future implications, especially since he and his wife had so graciously received her into their home and family circle. As he concluded, he made a statement that wonderfully summarized a whole set of Old Testament feelings. He leaned over the desk and said dramatically: "And we even invited her to our table." What more could he have done? That said it all. His hospitality was complete. In the best of his Jewish tradition, he had included her as fully as he could. -On Holy Thursday, Jesus invites us all to His table. To invite us to his banquet table was the ultimate way that the Jewish carpenter could tell us that he accepted us, no matter how weak and sinful we may be. Jesus invited everyone to dinner to share in all of those rich human experiences which, at that moment, became divine experiences.

Eugene Lauer in 'Sunday Morning Insights' 


 A man made a dramatic turnaround in his life. When asked how he did it, he pulled out a snapshot from his wallet. It was a picture of a caseworker who had helped him years ago. "Whenever I am tempted to fall back into my old ways," the man said, "I remember what this caseworker did for me, and I draw strength from his memory." That story illustrates an important biblical truth. For ancient Jews remembering a religious event meant far more than calling to mind something that had happened centuries before. On the contrary, remembering the event meant bringing it into the present and reliving it by faith. Thus when the Jews remembered the Passover each year, they did far more than recall to mind the event that freed their ancestors from Egypt. Rather, by remembering, they brought that event into the present and relived it again. In this way they received the same blessing from it that their ancestors did.

Mark Link in 'Journey'

 Eucharistic Meal

 In most cultures a meal is a special ceremony, time and occasion. We divide our day by mealtimes. A meal implies being together as a family -perhaps the only time of the day. It implies being one. Divorce is called "separation of bed and board." Tearing up a table cloth is a sign of disunity in a family. Soldiers unstrap their bayonet belt before entering a mess hall -no fighting in a dining room. At the dining table enemies, especially chiefs of clans, seal their agreements by eating one another's food. All eating is meant to be sharing. You cannot have a feast without a meal. Every big occasion has one farewell as well as welcome. When a businessman wants to discuss something important, or a friend wants to tell you something unpleasant, or a man has a special message for a woman -they get together over a meal. All this is implied in the Eucharist.

Fred Michalic in '1000 stories you can use'

 The Tragedy and Triumph

 An old African folk tale speaks of a land which was suffering from a famine. Men and beasts starved to death. Everyone was worried just about staying alive. In this country lived a pelican which did not worry about keeping herself alive as much as preserving the life of her young ones. Day after day she scrounged for food. Finally there was no food she could find, the pelican could find no other way out, so in her great need she made a hole in her own breast with her beak and gave her young ones her own blood to drink. When the famine was over her young ones were strong and able to fly away and look after themselves. She had given them her lifeblood to make them live.

Willi Hoffsuemmer in '1000 stories you can use' 

Live for others

 In the Russian Orthodox Church, there were people called Poustinikki who devoted themselves to lives of prayer. They withdrew to the desert (poustinia) and lived in solitude, but not isolation. The Russian word for solitude means "being with everybody." By custom, the latch was always off the door as a sign of availability. The poustinikki's priority was always a neighbour's need. We too are to live with the latch off the door to our hearts for the service of others.

John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'
To live with others, may we live for others!