Do this in Remembrance of Me
Last time when I went home, I came across an old photo album of mine taken during my seminary days. It brought so many sweet memories. Some of you may remember, when your family had one of those small, cheap Kodak Instamatic cameras. You used those flashbulbs that looked like ice cubes…and got these little square pictures back from the drugstore when you had them developed. I’m sure your parents would have taken hundreds, if not thousands of pictures with that old Kodak camera. Some of you might have never appreciated them until years later, after yours parents had died, and you were going through their things and found all these pictures. Boxes of them, curled and faded. But there they were – life, captured by Kodak. Memories you can put in a shoebox. We need that. We want something of the person we love to outlast them, and stay with us. We want to remember them.
And remembrance is at the very heart of what we celebrate this evening. But Jesus didn’t leave us photographs in a shoebox. He left us something better. He left us Himself. Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth is the earliest account ever written of the Last Supper. It pre-dates, even, the gospels. It is so close to the original event, that its words are part of our Eucharistic prayer, spoken at every mass, at every altar, around the world. The words that created the Eucharist are the beating heart of our Catholic Christian belief.
And through it all, one word leaps out at us. Remembrance. Do this in remembrance of me. Jesus is saying: This is how I want to be remembered. As St. Paul recounts, the self-giving of Jesus in his Body and Blood has been handed on to us as perpetual institution. At the Last Supper a meal was shared, words were spoken, and an example was given. Eucharist was not just the self-giving of Jesus but also a call to serve, be that as a parent, a doctor or nurse, or someone who washes the feet of those in need.
Two effects of a graced celebration of the Lord’s Supper are a deepening of friendship with Christ and an ever increasing expansion of service to others. In the gospel, John doesn’t even mention the meal, or the institution of the Eucharist. But he finds something else for us to remember: Christ, the servant.
When Jesus had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “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.”
Jesus says, if I your teacher, your Lord, your Master, found it necessary to serve you, then you should serve others. In fact, to serve is what it means to lead. We cannot call ourselves followers of Christ and be unwilling to serve in humble ways. You see foot washing isn’t about foot washing, it’s about serving others at personal sacrifice, humbling ourselves when we don’t have to–because we don’t have to.
Down through the ages there have been individuals who “realized” what Jesus did at the Last Supper like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Archbishop Romero, Dorothy Day – cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement. These towel and basin people followed the example of Jesus and washed the feet of those whom they met. These individuals, even though they too were teachers and ‘masters,’ focused on serving others, whatever their need. We are all called to be these Eucharistic towel and basin people to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend to those who need a healing touch.
At many parishes, as Sunday Mass is concluded, worshipers are told that they are now entering the mission field. Holy Thursday is both a celebration and a commitment.
Meditation: How has your understanding of the Eucharist grown over the years? Is your experience of Holy Thursday both a celebration and a commitment? How can you and I be a towel and basin people?