In our first reading from the Book of Exodus, we hear the story of the Passover and how it is to be celebrated. The feast was to mark the Presence and the Protection of God for the People of Israel. Future generations were to remember the goodness of God and the way in which God cared for his people.
In the Gospel of John, we hear the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and reminding them that they are to be servants of each other. Their authority and power flow not from a position or a name or a capacity for influence or money, their power and their authority come from their acts of service.
In our second reading, Paul tells the Corinthians what has been told to him. Paul recounts the words and actions of Jesus at the Passover celebration. Namely, that the bread and wine have become the Body and Blood of Jesus. They, in their turn, are to relive this moment and each time they do the bread and wine once again become the Body and Blood of Jesus. This remembrance of the Lord’s death has the power to transform them.
Here we are on Holy Thursday. What the Lord asks us to do we cannot do because of the COVID-19 virus. We cannot physically gather, we cannot present the oils consecrated at the Chrism mass as we normally would do, we cannot gather and hear the Word of God, we cannot wash feet, we cannot gather and pray for those who are most in need, we cannot receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.
This is hard for those of us who have been doing this for our whole life. It is hard for those of us who are struggling and rely on this communal prayer for courage and strength and hope. We are missing much in these times.
But what if we shift our focus and examine not what we are missing but focus on what we have? We can, from the comfort of our home watch the mass as it is celebrated – either on TV or through the internet. We can hear the word of God and we can pray for one another and through the power of prayer (our imagination) we can unite ourselves to one another. We can, during the time of communion, ask the Lord to feed us through our spiritual communion, our desire to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.
These are extraordinary times and Pope Francis and Bishop Albert assure us that given this time of self isolation, this is the best that we can do.
This is a gift to us. In normal times there are those among us who expect perfection, who expect that at all times and in all situations, we must do certain things. These times remind us that God wants from us the best that we can give.
We are to remember and call to mind who our God is! We are to recall what Jesus has done and allow these actions and gestures of service to transform the world. We are not to be concerned about how much power we have. Our power is not about money and influence and titles – our power is our capacity to serve the needs of our brothers and sisters. In these times we are reminded that we share a bond that is physical yes – but it is beyond physical. We are connected to people we cannot see and do not yet know.
What and who connects us? Our God connects us. How? By presence, by memory, by sacred action, by word and gesture. Even now we can greet one another with a wave. We can call one another. We can pray for one another. We can pray for forgiveness and we can be forgiven. God often connects with us through our senses. God also connects with us in ways that transcend our senses. We are connected to our past, our present and our future in ways that we cannot see and touch.
This moment reminds us of that. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are remembering who our God is and what our God does. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we hear the stories of God. We are an integral part of those stories. When we remember what Christ has done, we are strengthened and nourished so that we can do the same.
First and foremost, when we celebrate Eucharist, we are becoming more and more, intentional disciples. Celebrating the Eucharist is not about an obligation – it is a commitment to be and to do the best that we can.
It all begins at home. Simple acts of service. Actions like making our bed, cleaning our room, setting the table, doing dishes, dusting and vacuuming, taking out the trash, feeding the livestock, repairing the vehicles, greeting one another with care and concern, respecting one another’s property and encouraging each other to be their best self even when that person is radically different from me. These actions of service at home signal who we are. The Eucharist calls us to be servants of one another and it all begins within our home.
While we cannot gather to receive the word, the body and blood of the Lord, we can celebrate each other, and we can be Eucharist for each other. We can signal once again our desire to be intentional disciples. Will we do a perfect job? Probably not! We do the best we can.
Figuratively, we wash feet. We let go of our title, mom, dad, oldest, smartest, most athletic or best gamer and we reach out and we care for one another. This is what makes us who we are, intentional disciples of Jesus, sons and daughters of God.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI