Thursday, April 05, 2012

Holy Thursday: 2012

Have you ever wondered what Jesus did when he prayed? Until today, I guess, I'd never given much thought to this. I mean, what would the Son of the Living God have to say to his Abba? The Eternal Word made Flesh, one might suppose, had said everything that ever needed to be said long before the Incarnation. 

Yet we know from the Scriptures that Jesus prayed...even to the point of sweating blood, if Luke's Gospel portrait is to believed. What did Jesus say when he prayed? 

Perhaps, at some point, he said something like this:
I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to say as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me. It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will not be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal. 
I wish I could claim to have composed these words, but I borrow them from the 20th century figure Simone Weil (Waiting for God, 7).

I imagine that words like these could have been prayed by Jesus many times, as he returned time and again to his Abba and sought the strength and clarity it took to continue in his mission of announcing God's Kingdom or, as I like to say, the Culture of God. His motivation finds its grounding in nothing other than love, a love that dwells with others, a love that sets captive hearts free.

Valentin de Boulogne, Last Supper (1625-1626)
 Tonight, the Church celebrates the Institution of the Eucharist. We remember that on this night, in celebration of the Passover meal, Jesus shared with his disciples nothing less than himself. For many months, Jesus' followers experienced the Culture of God breaking into their world in various places - the blind were made to see, the lame were given the power to walk, the dead were raised, those possessed of demons were freed. Having seen these events and heard his parables, that had been given a preview of what God's Culture, in full bloom, would look like: a place where women and men could be fully alive, freed from hatred and exclusion, prejudice and fear.

Tonight, Jesus' prayers to the Father find an ongoing answer: in the form of humble bread and simple wine, Jesus comes to us, enters in to us, to be with us as the Love that creates us, sustains us, and leads us to flourish. Where Jesus' deeds had exposed facets of the Kingdom, the Eucharist uncaps the well and gives each one of us access to the lifeblood of the Kingdom. Through the Eucharist, Jesus Christ takes our flesh and uses us - when we allow it - to continue the promotion of God's Culture.

Tonight, the desire of Simone Weil's heart shines forth in the self-giving of Jesus Christ. The very One who cured, and preached, and loved comes to us again and again, becomes a part of us, and gives us the strength to carry on in the promotion of the Kingdom. Perhaps it is fitting that we be given but a morsel of the consecrated Host and a sip of the Precious Blood, because we must remember always to return to the source of our nutrition. Let this liturgy be the beginning of our own feast on the Heavenly Bread that calls each of us - daily, weekly - into Communion with one another, a communion that will be fulfilled eternally in the New Jerusalem when we feast sumptuously together illuminated by the everlasting Light of the Lamb.

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