“Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt” (Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb).
The first reading for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is from Exodus. In it we find explicit instructions the Lord gives to Moses about what became known as The Feast of the Passover. The Lord also says:
“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”
And St. Paul quotes Jesus in the second reading: “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The Verse Before the Gospel in today’s mass is from John 13: I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another as I have loved you.
Holy Thursday is sometimes called Maundy Thursday, Maundy coming from the Latin word mandare, to command. Today we learn about three commandments: one from God to the Hebrews in the Old Testament about the Passover Feast and the sacrificial lamb, and the other two from Jesus who commands us to love one another and celebrate the Eucharist in his memory. And in Jesus’ command to love one another, we hear the echo of his first command to his disciples: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
So who gives commands? The boss, the general, the supervisor, the police…in this case, it’s God. But what, besides the Eucharist is an important part of this story? God reminds everyone that he is going to be sacrificed to save them from their sins, and then proceeds to wash the feet of his disciples! The master becomes the servant and tells us that we should all be servants to our neighbors.
Of course, then there is a discussion about who among them is considered to be the greatest, they being the rude bunch of disciples that they are. Jesus says to them:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
It seems to me that the whole of the establishment of the Eucharist embodies this idea of servanthood, along with the bread and wine. Sometimes we just forget this part of our Lord’s last day as a free man.
But maybe we ought to reflect upon that significant act, washing feet, and the reminder by Jesus that he is “among [us] as one who serves.”
“Do this in remembrance of me.” Eat the bread, drink the wine, serve our fellows. That reminder is not an integral part of the mass, but perhaps it should be. Wouldn’t a weekly or daily reminder at the feast of the Eucharist that we are all to act as servants, wouldn’t that reminder be a transformative event in our lives? After all, we are just dust, and will return to dust. But living for, and being remembered as servants of, our fellows…isn’t that a greater honor than being the boss, or first at the table? Being like Jesus. Isn’t that the greatest honor of all?
Lord, as we approach the time of your passion, help us to remember every day that you came to us as a servant and gave your life for us on the cross, so that at daybreak on Easter, we can rejoice in your resurrection as your friends. Amen.