Tomorrow is Holy Thursday, when we traditionally celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which, along with Good Friday and Easter, constitute the Paschal Triduum, the most important liturgical celebrations of the year. The epistle for Holy Thursday (1Cor 11:23-26), the oldest written account of the Last Supper composed about two decades after the event, recalls the institution of the Eucharistic meal by Christ and his repeated command: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
The Gospel (John 13:1-15) recounts the story of how Jesus gathered his disciples for a final meal before his pending death. During the meal, he washed the feet of his disciples, including the reluctant Peter. After this symbolic gesture, Jesus pointedly told his disciples: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus, who stated clearly that he came not to be served but to serve others, maintained that fundamental attitude throughout his life, right up to his last days, symbolically washing feet and freely accepting death on the cross as an unavoidable byproduct of his life of service to the cause of God and the whole human family.
When we remember Christ at Mass, we do well to recall his life of service and his command to follow his example. By celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy, we express our love of God and our commitment to love our neighbor. Receiving Communion unites us to Christ and nourishes us for the demanding task of serving those we meet in our daily lives. The liturgy is communal public worship, which by its very nature calls us to serve the common good and the needs of others, including family, friends, strangers and even our enemies. The Eucharist brings to mind both the comforting memory of Jesus, who teaches us to trust God’s merciful love, and the challenging and sometimes dangerous memory of Christ, who calls us to join the fight against hatred and oppression and work for justice and peace.
Holy Thursday prepares us for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who left us with a great example of service by washing the feet of his disciples, and who now, as the crucified and risen Lord, intercedes on our behalf so we can meet our own responsibilities to love our neighbor and serve those in need.
Holy Thursday encourages us to be more attentive to the ways we can help people in our own circle of influence who have various needs. For example, an elderly relative who needs help getting to a medical appointment and understanding the doctor’s advice; a work colleague who needs protection against racial slurs; a neighbor who needs a minor home repair; a parishioner who needs a ride to church; a young couple who now and then need a babysitter; and a grandchild who needs financial help to complete their college degree. Prayerful reflection might reveal more people we know who could use our help.
What specific way could I practice the Holy Thursday mandate to serve others?