HOLY THURSDAY – MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
After opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable to another person, to have them abuse the trust you placed in them by betraying you, can cause more pain than if that person had physically beaten you. If a person who claims to love you, then turns around and hurts you deeply, you would probably do what most of us would do in that situation — you hurt them back.
Certainly, you wouldn’t choose to spend your last night alive with that person. Especially if you knew that his betrayal was going to lead to your death, a death you didn’t deserve. You wouldn’t invite him to share your last meal or treat him with the same love and compassion that you have for all the other guests at your table. You wouldn’t get down on your hands and knees and wash his feet. Certainly, you wouldn’t give yourself, your very body and blood, to him. But that is exactly what Jesus did with Judas.
The chief priests had paid Judas thirty pieces of silver to spy on Jesus and let them know just the right moment to betray him. No doubt, that’s what he was doing in that upper room, as Jesus offered the bread, his body, and the wine, his blood, to all of them. Holding the silver coins in one hand and the body and the blood of Christ in the other, Judas chose to betray Jesus.
It’s hard to believe that Judas could have participated in the foot washing and in Jesus’ last meal, with the other disciples, and still turn him in to the Chief Priests. What’s even more amazing is that Jesus himself knew that Judas was planning to have him arrested and killed, and still he washed his feet and gave himself to him.
Why didn’t Jesus dismiss Judas at the beginning of the meal? Why did he allow him to share in such an intimate time with his closest friends? Judas seems had defiled this holy moment. If Jesus knew what he was doing why didn’t he asked him to leave earlier, so that he would have been excluded from the loving exchange of his body and blood with his true followers? But, for whatever reason, Jesus intentionally chose to include Judas.
As the story unfolds, of course, we learn that Judas isn’t the only person who will betray Jesus. When Jesus is arrested, Peter denies even knowing him. One by one, all the disciples fall away from him and after Jesus is crucified, they all hide out for fear of being recognized as his followers. Not only did Jesus share his last supper with the one who sold him out to his enemies, he shared his last supper with all who would deny knowing him. Even though he knew what each of them would do to him, he still loved every one of them enough to wash their feet, and give them his body and blood.
And he loves us in the same way. Even when we feel that we have no right to receive him at this altar because our faith is not strong enough or sure enough, Jesus still offers himself to us. Even when all we do is talk about defending the cause of the poor and oppressed, but don’t do very much about it, Jesus still offers himself to us.
Even when we feel like an outsider because we do not feel the presence of God in our lives or at this table. Even when we are supposed to be in an attitude of prayer, but are constantly looking at our watch and wondering how long this homily, or that song, or that procession will take. Even when our mind wanders and all we are thinking about is how to get out in time to beat the traffic or get a seat at our favourite lunch spot. Jesus still offers himself to us.
Jesus loves us enough to offer his body and blood, to all those who sometimes fall short in loving him. Just as he did not turn anyone away from the that Last supper where the Eucharist was born, he does not turn anyone away from this altar. Even if we feel like Judas holding thirty pieces of silver in one hand, Jesus still gives his body and blood to be taken in the other hand. But as freely as this gift is given we must never take it for granted or abuse it by thinking it is ours by right of baptism, or that we have earned it by following all the rules of the Church.
Nothing we do can make us spiritually, psychologically, or morally worthy to receive our Lord. Not even knowing how unworthy you are will make you any more worthy. The Eucharist is a free gift. And Jesus, the one who invites us here today, does not restrict his gift to those who are judged faithful, pious, and good, He shares it with sinners and outsiders as well. So if your faith is weak and your doubts are strong, if your motives are questionable and your spirituality leaves something to be desired, you are still invited to the Lord’s table, you still have a place here.
We all need to examine how and why we come to the Lord. If you think you are unworthy of receiving the body and blood of Christ, because your doubts are too strong or your sins too many to be forgiven, then think back to the night when Jesus gave us this holy meal. Our Lord Jesus took bread, he gave thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body broken for you.” He took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. It is poured out for you and for the forgiveness of sins.” From the very beginning, it has been shared with people who were unworthy of the gift. That’s what makes it a sacrament, because it is all about God’s grace poured out for the undeserving.
It is not how we come to Christ, but how Christ comes to us which makes the reconciling and renewing presence of God real in our lives. On this Holy Thursday, as we reach up from the midst of anger, sin, despair, complacency, or emptiness, to where Christ is, Christ comes to us where we are and offers himself to us. Here at the Lord’s table we meet Christ at the level of our need.
But as he openly offers himself to all, we need to be as open as he was to all those who come to the Lord’s table with me. Even if their theology is too liberal or too conservative for me. Even if the way they praise and worship God is so different from mine that I question their faith. Even if they offend me because they are too pious, or not pious enough, too sexist or too racist. I can not share in this Eucharist without sharing in their company. Jesus opened himself up to all and he commands us to do the same.
No matter how strong or weak our faith may be, no matter how faithfully we read our Bible or pray, no matter how many commandments we have kept or broken, no matter how well or how poorly we have done at following Jesus, no matter who you are or what you are trying to hide, Jesus offers you his body and blood. It is given for the forgiveness of sins, and for the healing of our divisions.
The Eucharist isn’t reserved for perfect people. It’s for people like Judas, who betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver. It’s for people like Peter who promised he would never leave Jesus and then turned around and flatly denied even knowing him. It’s for people like the disciples who cowered in fear as soon as Jesus left them. It’s a meal where no one is excluded even those we may consider most unworthy. It’s a meal where all are loved and forgiven. It’s a meal where all who believe that this is truly the body and blood of our saviour, are given the gift of Jesus himself. That’s the way this holy meal began. Do not take it lightly. Approach it with humility and in thanksgiving for the, unity, grace and healing it offers.