On Holy Thursday, we commemorate the last meal Jesus ate before his execution. It was at the Last Supper that Jesus gave all his disciples two of his greatest gifts: the establishment of the Eucharist and instructions on how to be true disciples.
By instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus unites heaven and earth (cf. LS no. 236). He sanctifies the symbiotic relationship that humans and non-humans can have, a holy collaboration that the text of our liturgy recognizes (i.e., “fruit of earth and work of human hands”).
The Eucharist also reminds us that God “chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours” (LS no. 236).
In other words, God is present in all members of creation, no exception. Every person (no matter their race, class, gender, nationality, sexuality, etc.) and every creature (no matter their species, intelligence, etc.) is welcome at the table of the Eucharist.
How do we put this powerful truth into action? What does this radical inclusivity look like? Jesus gives us the answer in his second Holy Thursday gift.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus washes his disciples' feet and they are confused about why he is doing it. When he finishes, he explains that “you call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:13-15).
We Christians talk a lot about what it means to be a “servant leader” but too often we stress the word “leader” when we ought to stress the word “servant.” The questions a leader asks are different from the questions a servant asks.
Leaders ask “who are my followers?” Servants ask “who needs my care?”
Leaders ask “what should I tell others?” Servants ask “what care do they need?”
Leaders ask “what can I accomplish?” Servants ask “how can I best give this care?”
By asking the servant’s questions, we know exactly how to include everyone at the table of the Eucharist. We listen to them and then give them what they say they need. Pope Francis has already asked these questions in Laudato Si’.
Who needs my care?: “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor” (LS no. 2).
What care do they need?: “[for us] to feel intimately united with all that exists … [so we] refuse to turn [creation] into an object simply to be used and controlled” (LS no. 11).
How can I best give this care?: “adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generation, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderation [our] consumption, maximizing their efficient use, [and] reusing and recycling them” (LS no.22).
Holy Thursday is an opportunity to ask ourselves these questions and to make a commitment to serve the members of our community who need the most care. Who is that in your community? And what do they need from you?
Copyright © 2021 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.