The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Antonio Pernia SVD – Divine Word Mission Institute Tagaytay, Philippines
Holy Thursday / Commemoration of the Lord’s Supper in Holy Week – Easter Triduum
The Gospel reading today is taken from the Gospel according to John. John’s Gospel, however, has a strange way of recounting the last supper of Jesus. The three other evangelists – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – recount the last supper by narrating the institution of the Eucharist. On the other hand, John recounts the last supper by narrating the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus.
It would seem, therefore, that for the Synoptics, the final act of Jesus before he died, the act by which he wished to be remembered, was the institution of the Eucharist. For John, on the other hand, the last act of Jesus before he died, the act by which he wished to be remembered, was the washing of the feet of his disciples.
Today the liturgy seems to be saying that Jesus wishes to be remembered in two ways – not just in the sacrament of the Eucharist, but also in the act of the washing of feet. “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus says after giving his body and his blood as our food and drink. But also after washing the feet of his disciples, he says: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13,15)
Thus, Jesus remains with us and is present among us not only in the sacrament of the Eucharist but also in every act of genuine service to our sisters and brothers.
In fact, loving service to our sisters and brothers is, in a certain sense, another “sacrament” which makes Jesus present among us. The first is the sacrament of our encounter with Jesus in the Church, and the other is the sacrament of our encounter with Jesus outside the Church. The first is Jesus gathering us together in worship, the other is Jesus sending us out in service.
Today, then, the liturgy reminds us of these two sacraments of the presence of Jesus in our world. It reminds us that our encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist is never complete if it does not lead us to the loving service of our sisters and brothers. Our sharing of the eucharistic meal would be but an empty gesture if it does not lead us to a genuine concern for our sisters and brothers deprived of their daily meals. Our breaking of the eucharistic bread would be a mere ritual if we are not ready to break our daily bread with the poor and the lowly.