The Action of the Eucharist
Homily for Holy Thursday 2015
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
The Most Reverend Joseph J. Tyson, Bishop of Yakima
Peace be with you! Why the Eucharist? Why it’s commemoration each Holy Thursday? Why its centrality in our lives as Catholics? The scriptural key can be found in tonight’s Gospel from St. John: “Having loved his own in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
In our Gospel, Jesus picks up a basin and washes our feet. He does for us what we could never do for ourselves – makes us worthy to sit at His banquet table. He gives us of His very self in this lowly act of service. In doing so, he prepares the table where he gives us of himself – in all of his humanity and all of his divinity – in the Holy Eucharist.
In each and every Eucharist we hear four verbs: take, bless, break and give. They form the action of the Eucharist whereby God in the person of Jesus Christ keeps giving himself over to us – loving us to the very end.
“He took bread in his holy hands.” That phrase from the first Eucharistic prayer refers to the same hands that healed the sick and the lame, gestured forgiveness of sinners and their welcome at His table. He does the same for us. Through the Eucharist he takes us in our lowliness, our sinfulness, and our unworthiness. He loves us to the end.
“He said the blessing…” That next phrase reminds us that the same voice of Christ who blesses the bread and the wine is the same voice that blesses children. It is the same voice of Christ who proclaims the unusual blessing – the beatitude – upon the poor, the sorrowful, the meek, the hungry the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted. He loves us to the end.
“Broke the bread…” That verb “broke” speaks of the fact that – like Christ – we are broken for others so that our very lives witness to the life of Christ – Christ – who loves us to the end.
“…and gave it to his disciples…” The final verb in the action of the Eucharist – given – speaks to the fact that we are broken for others so we can be given away as nourishment for those around us so that others might know what we definitively know: He loves us to the end.
Being loved and being loved to the end means – quite literally – that when Jesus lays aside his garments, he lays aside his glory and begins the Last Supper with the most humble act imaginable in first century hospitality: the washing of the feet. This action of Jesus ought to tell us that none of our cares and burdens, none of our troubles and heartaches, none of our fears and frustrations is too little for his consideration. He loves us to the end.
“Having loved his own in the world, he loved them to the end.” Why the Eucharist? Because even now, Jesus loves us to the end! Perhaps, then, our adoration meditation this night might lead us to trust more deeply this utter love and utter closeness that God has for each and every one of us! Peace be with you.
(Image: “Communion of the Apostles,” Luca Giordano, created 1659)