Maundy Thursday Reflection (by Lay Reader Jane Goad)
The liturgy of Holy Thursday moves us into the celebration of “The Three Days” commemorating the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In part of this evening’s liturgy, we witness the institution of the Eucharist that Paul speaks of in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth. If Baptism is the great sacrament that brings us to life in Christ, then Eucharist is the beating heart of the Church.
It began that one night in the upper room in Jerusalem. Jesus is sharing the Passover meal on the eve of his own passion – a meal for which every Jewish person would be gathered to celebrate God’s sovereignty as protector and liberator of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. He knows his betrayal and arrest are imminent, he knows he is gong to die, but so great was his infinite wisdom that he found a way to go away and stay here at the same time. It is no accident that Jesus chooses this moment to institute the Eucharist. God’s salvation history is not divided or fragmented – bread and wine are raised into something sacred and holy and through these gifts Jesus offers his very self as a sign of the new Covenant.
Communion is not simply the sharing of a common memory, a sense of a common bond handed down through the ages. This is the moment when Christ’s eternal gift sealed in the history of sacrifice and suffering – on the cross – gathers the whole community of God’s people for the ages. In the ordinariness of everyday things – bread and wine – he concentrates the whole mystery of his person, equally human and divine, and gives himself to us. Individually and as the body of the Church in the Holy Eucharist we become the living Body of Christ bringing the reality of Jesus’ presence to a hungry world.
As a Eucharistic community, these are very difficult times. Social distancing is a complete antithesis to the very core of what being a Christian is about. This Eucharistic fast is unlike anything we have ever experienced. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the heartache and suffering around us; to feel starved for want of these sacred gifts. But I am reminded, that as people of the Eucharist we are also uniquely prepared – we have been given food for the journey to GO and live the Word.
There is a quietness and stillness that most of us have never encountered and it is within this new “normal” that our personal relationship with Jesus is changing – we are paying attention. He is always with us, in the daily rhythm or our prayers, in the beauty of our gardens and the calls of the songbirds. He is there when we turn our hand to knitting, bake bread for the first time, embrace a DIY project, or finish a book. He is there when we are reaching out to loved ones or trying to mend fractured relationships. He is there when we are frightened, lonely or anxious about all those whom we love. In all these moments, we are called to be in relationship with Jesus, the mysteries of faith unfold in ways we cannot “ask or imagine”, and we are refreshed.
We do not know what lies ahead. In time, this stillness will end; we will return to the table in joyous Communion having feasted on the Word to encounter Christ with a renewed love, honed by the travails we have endured and a new appreciation of his constant presence in our lives.
He is always with us. Let us Go in Peace and glorify the Lord with our lives.