Theme: The Holy Eucharist: A Communion and Summit of Love
In the liturgy of this evening mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Mother Church commemorates three principal mysteries: the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the Catholic Priesthood and Christ’s commandment of brotherly love. Our reflection this evening will be based on these mysteries.
The Institution of the Holy Eucharist: The idea of the Holy Eucharist is dominant in the readings of today. The first reading (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14) prefigures the institution of the Holy Eucharist which is the Christian Passover meal. In the second reading (1 Cor. 11:23-26), St. Paul narrates the manner in which Christ instituted this great sacrament and gave his apostles the mandate to celebrate it in his memory. As we know, the Holy Eucharist is a topic that can never be exhausted because it is God Himself who cannot be fully comprehended. Based on this, we shall reflect on the Eucharist as a sacrament of communion.
Bishop John Okoye in his Lenten pastoral letter for 2012 describes the celebration of the Eucharist as the highest expression of the identity of the Church as a communion. This is because it maintains the communion between the Church and the Triune God, the communion between the Church and the faithful and the communion between the faithful themselves. Pope John Paul II also pointed out that celebrating the Eucharist however, cannot be the starting point of this communion, it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 35).
Beloved brothers and sisters, today we experience rancor and discord not just among Christians but among communicating Catholics. How has the Eucharist united our purposes and intent? Some come to Church with malice in their hearts against other worshippers and even against the Church. Perhaps, they expected one privilege, office or recognition from the Church which they didn’t receive. That is why today we see people who deliberately attack the church and maliciously work towards the downfall of church projects.
Our communion with the Church should be seen in our obedience and co-operation with the hierarchy of the Church beginning with our local pastors. How do we relate with our local catechist, the seminarian on apostolic work, the parish priest(s), rectors, chaplain, bishop(s) etc? Do we support their ministry? The Eucharist we receive through the exercise of their ministry should unite us with them. Our communion with our neighbour should be seen in our relationship with them. Therefore, we should avoid hatred, injustice and other vices that will hurt our communion with others.
The Institution of the Catholic Priesthood: The command “Do this in memory of me” during the institution of the Eucharist implies the institution of the Catholic priesthood because it is the priest that is expected to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Jesus willed that there be ministers to constantly renew this communion for us, those ministers today, we regard as the hierarchy of the Church – deacons, priests, bishops. Today, priests are reminded of the sacred nature of their calling and are invited to renew their commitment to their priestly ministry and strive more to live up to the expectations of their calling. They should be more concerned with the Eucharist than with worldly affairs. Their practical attitude towards the Eucharist is the highest theology on the Eucharist they can teach the faithful. They should pay greater devotion to Eucharistic adorations because it is the greatest source of the priestly power.
The faithful are also enjoined to keep praying for their priests and not to go about criticizing or attacking them. We are all men of God but priests by virtue of their ordination become not just men of God or ministers of God like every other person but Alter Christus (Another Christ). An insult on a priest is a slap on Christ’s face.
Christ’s Commandment of Brotherly Love: The Eucharist is a sacrament motivated by love, celebrated in love, given in love, received in love and lived out in love. The Eucharist is also consummated in love, the love of him who chose to make himself significantly present in apparently insignificant materials – the love of self-abasement (self-emptying). As a sacrament of love, it should motivate all our actions towards the other. In the gospel reading (John 13:1-15), Jesus gives us two components of this love – humility and service. He exhorts us to be humble and ready to serve others by washing the feet of others (though not a physical imperative to go about washing peoples’ feet on the streets). We can understand the concept of washing of feet when we regard one’s feet as the dirtiest part of the body and washing one’s feet implies doing for another, the most humiliating thing we can imagine. Jesus wants us to wash each other’s feet by tolerating their weaknesses, forgiving their faults, accommodating them, caring for them even when we think they do not deserve them. We should go extra miles in serving the other no matter how highly placed we are. We should also be unconditional in our love and service for others.
In conclusion beloved brethren, we are challenged today to recognize the Eucharist as a sacrament of communion and to go home with a more committed communion with God, the Church, our neighbours and even ourselves. This communion should be seen in our relationship with our priests and neighbours and should foster love, tolerance, humility and service to all. God loves you.