Thursday, March 29, 2018

Remember Me... Holy Thursday 2018

Holy Thursday brings together the biggest themes in Christian faith. Service and humility. Vocation. Choosing God’s will over our own. It’s the institution of the Holy Eucharist — nothing’s bigger than that! Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s broken promise, Jesus’ agony in the garden, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the ordained priesthood, the Eucharist itself…

It’s so much. We must start somewhere. Let’s start with this: “Do this in remembrance of me.” You’ve heard those words in every single Mass you’ve ever prayed. You’ve heard them as the words of God establishing the Sacrament that makes the Church… and so they are. Have you ever heard them as the words of a man sharing a last meal with his best friends, knowing He will die tomorrow?

Simon Ushakov, Last Supper



Knowing He will die tomorrow. Knowing, also, that He will rise! But things will never be the same, and the Ascension will follow soon. Remember me. I call you friends! Remember me.

I’m thinking of the people I’ve lost. Will you think now of the ones we’ve lost? Maybe you can see their faces, like I can, almost hear their voices, before they disappeared: “remember me.” Maybe your heart jumps into your throat like mine, thinking about them, promising: “I will… I do.”

I’m thinking of my own feelings if I knew tonight was my last. Did I make the difference I wanted to? Will something carry on after? Will you imagine your own heart, in that same circumstance, your own feelings as you share that last evening with your friends: “remember me.”

If you had your choice about how we remembered you, you wouldn’t ask us to sit around thinking about you and being quietly sad. You’d rather be remembered in living, in doing, in sharing something of the life you left behind. I don’t like the thought of everybody thinking of me and being sad. I do like the thought of some of the ones who loved me getting together to fish on my birthday. Or gathering to listen to Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, or hiking in the Shawnee. Wouldn’t you rather something like that? An even better than that would be if something good and beautiful happened in your memory… they worked on your pet project, or gave to your favorite charity. Something good and beautiful, after you’ve gone… that would be the best remembrance of all.

We can see all of this behind the words of Jesus. As He looks around the table at His best friends and says, “remember me?” And didn’t He ask them, not just to sort of think about Him sometimes, but to “DO THIS in remembrance of me?” And didn’t He show them as clearly as possible, putting the towel around His waist and washing their feet, didn’t He ask them to live out His memory in caring for others?

All of that simple humanity is there, that vulnerable simple humanity, “remember me.” But this humanity is wed to divinity, this true man is also true God. And when He breaks this bread and shares this cup and says “do this,” He is not scripting out a mere ritual, a sort of ongoing memorial service. He is creating, He is making a Sacrament, He is overthrowing the power of death to keep us apart from God and from each other. He wants to change your life, yes, certainly, but it goes so much deeper than that. He wants to be your life. In this Sacrament He wants His own life, His soul and divinity, to fill you and animate you. This is the life that rises out of death and decay, this is the life that can’t be taken away by cancer or illness or age or violence, this is the life that ascends into Heaven.

This life — this life that makes us His Church — it is our communion not only with God but with each other. And the ones I thought of, and the ones you thought of, moments ago, the ones we’ve lost… they are all with Him, they are all in Him, they come with Him to us in the Eucharist. In Christ we are one. We are one in the Eucharist because the Eucharist is Christ.

“Do this in remembrance of me.” And with the life and identity we find in the Eucharist, we are sent inevitably into loving, humble service. To receive the Eucharist, to receive the life of Christ into your life, is to grab the nearest towel and get started loving and serving the nearest person. It begins, just as in Jesus’ demonstration, with the people closest to you, your friends, your family. Starting from there, it extends to anyone and everyone to whose need God directs you.

Pray with me, if you will: Jesus, change my life. Change my heart. But even more than that, be my life. When I go into the world, let it be You walking the world. When I speak, let it be the truth and beauty You speak. When I love, make it so much more than the small weak love I can muster from my selfish heart… let me love my brothers and sisters, your brothers and sisters, with your limitless and perfect and eternal love. My love is so small… fill it with Yours. Every time I receive the Eucharist, every time I exit those Church doors filled with Your life, let it be You bursting anew into the world, pushing back the darkness, reaching out to the lost and hurting, laughing and crying and playing and working with the people for whom You gave Your life, the people to whom in every time and place You want to keep giving Your life, in this Eucharist, in this commandment, in this Church, in remembrance of You.

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