Today, we commemorate the Last Supper, the tragic moment Jesus bid farewell to his disciples, informed them of the coming passion, and instituted the Mass. Though this scene has been beautifully depicted by the likes of Da Vinci, Rubens, Tintoretto and countless others, we can only imagine the sorrow and trepidation Jesus felt as He prepared to embrace the cross.
Every time we attend Mass, witness the consecration, and consume the host, we become full participants in the Last Supper. It’s an everyday miracle many of us have taken for granted, until recently. Now (and for the foreseeable future) we attend Mass from a distance: we watch from our homes as the Eucharist is distributed to altar servers and instinctively rise to join a communion line that doesn’t exist.
Holy Thursday is also known as Maundy Thursday – Maundy being derived from the Latin word for “command.” It refers to Jesus’ commandment to His disciples to “love one another as I have loved you.” Following this command he proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet, to the amazement of Peter who recoiled from the gesture. Jesus was explicit in His response: “unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
It’s important to remember that, though we are temporarily deprived of the Eucharist, we continue to be present emotionally and spiritually in every live streamed Mass we attend. And current regulations do not prevent us from responding to Jesus’ Maundy Thursday exhortation: to be of service to others. The coronavirus outbreak presents an unprecedented opportunity to support friends, neighbors, and health care workers through the sewing of masks, blood donation, words of encouragement, and even a smile.
Maundy Thursday reminds us that the time to begin making the world a better place… is now.