March 2010

“DO THIS FOR ME”

As we approach Holy Week it might be helpful to ask ourselves what Jesus meant when he told His disciples at the Last Supper "Do this in memory of me." He also says, "I have given you an example so that as I have done you also must do."

Do what? What does Jesus want us to do? He said, "Do it!" Do what?

Well, first of all, share a meal. The supper He ate with His friends is the Eucharist He has given to all of us.  Jesus wants us to gather together as a family or a community around a table and then do what he did at the Last Supper; share a meal. This time, though, the meal is His very own body and blood. The emphasis is on coming together and sharing.

In the Liturgy, we gather together and celebrate a meal and it's clear that this is what Jesus meant for us to do. As we read the Gospel events that take place after He rose from the dead, we see Him sharing the Eucharist with friends at a roadside Inn and later at a beach by a lake. Jesus joins them in a meal and that was the Eucharist. They recognized Jesus when they broke bread together.

From the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of the St. Paul we discover that the first Christians gathered in their homes and celebrated the Eucharist gathered around the table. Very often they shared an ordinary meal because that's such a great way to bring people together. As time went on, that meal evolved and expanded into the sacred meal of the body and blood of Jesus. So the very first thing we understand about the Eucharist is that we come to do something, we come to share a meal together.

Of course, it becomes a very extraordinary meal; the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus himself points out that his body becomes the bread of life.  He says; "I am the bread of life. I am the word of God that gives life. You must listen to me, my words and how I act. I am that bread that nurtures your spirit, the bread of real life."

Jesus wanted His action at the Last Supper to be a message. He said that the bread and the cup were "the signs of my life, death, and resurrection." And so Jesus gave a message when he celebrated that first Eucharist. That message is what happened through his death and resurrection, and if we listen carefully we see that the message is really the word of life.

There is even more at the Last Supper that shows what Jesus wants us to do when we "do" the Eucharist.  In John's Gospel there's a very important action that occcurs. Jesus gets down on His hands and knees and washes the feet of his disciples. Jesus is saying that he gave his whole self in service, and he dramatized that by doing the work of the servant, washing the feet of his friends. That was when he said, "I've done this as an example for you so that as I have done, you also must do."

So if we really take Jesus seriously, every time we receive the Eucharist at the Divine Liturgy, we're saying "yes" to what he did: pouring forth his whole being in service to the least of his brothers and sisters. This is what Jesus did and he says that this is what the Eucharist is. He asks us to do what he did, to follow his example.

When we receive the Eucharist we say ‘yes’ to what Jesus asks us to do. It means we agree to do what Jesus does. We will listen to his words and carry on his work. Receiving the Eucharist means we say ‘yes’ to giving ourselves fully in service to one another and to the least of our brothers and sisters.

Half way through Lent it’s good to stop and consider what we are doing.

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