During this special gathering, Jesus tells his disciples to do something. They are not meant to be spectators or mere recipients of what is being given. As disciples, they are to walk in the Master’s footsteps. What the Master did there was not a simple sharing of a meal. He was giving his own body, pouring his own blood. “Do this” did not refer solely to the breaking of bread or drinking from the chalice, but also to what it implied: the total giving of oneself to others. What Jesus did sacramentally on Thursday evening, He repeated on the following day from the cross.
It’s interesting to note that in his account of the same Holy Thursday event, St John does not give us any of the above. Rather, he tells us about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples - a great act of humility and service. Here again, Jesus tells the disciples, “as I have done to you, you do the same to one another”.
In both stories we have the same act of giving of self, of dying to the other person, of unconditional, freely given love. And in both stories, we notice one particular detail: Judas was present! Yes, in spite of (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that Jesus knew what was in Judas’ mind, he did kneel down in front of him to wash his feet, and he did share with him the gift of his body and blood. When Jesus tells us to do exactly as he does, he is basically telling us to love everybody, irrespective of who they are or what they have done! This is real “communion” Yes, following Jesus is not for the faint-hearted!
This is what we are living out every time we celebrate Eucharist. During Mass we listen to those words, over and over again: “do this in remembrance of me”. As we slowly start coming back to our churches, it’s good to remember that this is the command I am expected to live in my daily life, as I leave the Church building after Mass. What I celebrate in Church, I am called to live outside of it. “Do this” is asking me to give my life to others, without holding anything back, irrespective of who the “other” might be. Otherwise, my celebration would be a contradiction.
Humanly speaking, this might be difficult to do. Not unlike what happened in the first story, doing what Jesus is asking me to do sometimes defies all human logic and reasoning. But it is worth taking the risk. The results might surprise us.