Lectionary Readings: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14 / Ps 116 / 1Cor 11:23-26 / Jn 13:1-15
[Jesus] loved them to the end.
We once again arrive at the Paschal Triduum with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We still have the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic looming over us, at least here in Toronto, and things do not seem to be getting any better, but rather, worse with the variants.
I think during the past year, we have heard so much of lockdowns, masks, social distancing… This pandemic rhetoric is making people sick of hearing it, including myself. However, we observe this safety protocols out of charity for our brothers and sisters in society. It is this charity that I wish to reflect on in light of today’s Gospel, today’s commemoration and the ongoing pandemic.
Can you imagine yourself in the upper room at the Last Supper? There must have been a festive atmosphere to some extent as the followers of Jesus helped to arrange for this meal. Passover was the most important holiday for the Jewish people (and seemingly so today). Yet, there was a cloud hovering over these festivities. That is how we start today’s liturgy, with triumph and the joy of the bells of with the Gloria. Yet, all of these cease after the Gloria and a cloud descends, a somber tone takes on the rest of the liturgy until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil. A similar transition of the atmosphere may have happened in the upper room that night to, particularly when Jesus hints His betrayer with the morsel (cf. Mt 26:26). Yet, even in the midst of all this, one message remains prominent, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34) Jesus on this night instituted the Eucharist, which in itself is contained His love for every one of us. This Eucharistic sacrifice was fulfilled on Calvary the next day as He died on the cross, offered up of Himself for the salvation of all.
There is something about the love of Jesus, a love that encompasses all, even sinners that we cannot fully grasp. Some people would say that Jesus would be crazy to give a “gift” to an undeserving person, and that is us. Yet, these mysteries that we celebrate over the Triduum expresses this – a self-giving love that man can never decipher because it is too great.
Yet, once again, Jesus challenges to love as He has loved us. We are called to strive to live up to this love. Yet how? First of all, by opening up of ourselves to Jesus Himself, particularly in the Eucharist. Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? That is my hope, that the more we love the Eucharist and take part in it, we would be able to conform our hearts to the heart of the One whom we receive.
The challenge to love is certainly not easy because God’s love is incomprehensible to us human beings. Yet, we must challenge ourselves to this call to love every day. We cannot call ourselves followers of Jesus if we are mere “textbook Catholics,” or “cafeteria Catholics.” While liturgy, prayers and devotions are praiseworthy, they must accompany our very actions. We must dive deeper into the mysteries that we celebrate, not just floating on the surface. That means, sincerely striving to live up to this mandate of love that we celebrate today in this Eucharist.
The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to challenge many around the world. We of course pray that this will end, but as we have heard every so often, “We must not let our guards down.” These times call us to challenge ourselves further to this call to washing each other’s feet, even to the smallest of acts: maintaining social distancing, picking up groceries for the elderly, properly wearing you mask, messaging someone and check-in with them… these are all platforms in which we can wash the feet of our brothers and sisters. This mandate of love, this Eucharistic spirit starts with these little things. Let us continue to use this time as a time to love more, as an opportunity to imitate our Eucharistic Lord that we receive in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
As Jesus loved until the end, so must we. This call to love is embedded within each and over one of us. It is up to us to answer this call to love and serve, and so conform ourselves to the Eucharistic Lord. Amen.