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home : opinion : perspectives

4/27/2017 8:30:00 AM
What Holy Thursday meant

On Holy Thursday, Christians all over the world sat down to break bread and share the Lord's Supper. Hopefully, we also shared Jesus' message and put it into practice.

Sometimes, we can take meals for granted and forget their real significance. Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that Christians actually share three kinds of meals: regular meals at home, the Lord's Supper and the heavenly banquet we are always anticipating.

In each case, the meal is a symbol of bonding and love between the members and Jesus. In each case, Jesus should be revealed, as He revealed Himself to the disciples at Emmaus, who recognized Him in the "breaking of the bread."

In a special way, whenever Christians break bread, Jesus is present as a guest at our table. It is not always easy to keep this sacred trust. Christians don't always get along. Anglican cleric and theologian John Wesley complained that instances like this cause Christianity to be ineffective. St. Paul warned the early Christians about breaking up the body of Christ (I Cor 1:13).

We should use as a good example the love and charity that Jesus showed at the Last Supper.

The breaking of the bread should have a festive quality. There is good reason to celebrate! It is a sign of sharing with God's poor. There were 12 baskets of food left over after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This demonstrates Jesus' generosity. The message is that we should be generous with our gifts and watch them multiply.

The Mass uses a beautiful responsive prayer during the feast: "Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ." This is adapted from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (I Cor 10:16-17). This prayer expresses so much in just a few words. We share Christ's life, His love, His sacred meal. How much more interconnected can we be?

This feast celebrates the love of all Christians with their master and each other. If our religion seems to be lacking, it is due to our failure to understand the elements of the breaking of the bread and washing of the feet and put them into practice.

In the washing of the feet, Jesus showed us how to put His love into practice. There is no hierarchy here. There is no pulling rank. Jesus humbles Himself before His disciples.

That took a while to sink in. Peter only acquiesced after he realized the consequences of not accepting Jesus' humility. He did not want to cut himself off from Jesus.

Jesus did not want us to have power over each other. When we feel that temptation, we should get back to the end of the line.

The Lord is always at our side at the sacred meal. We feel His presence. His Spirit nudges us on. He is in our body, soul, mind, heart and being. This is why Christians sing an ancient hymn on Holy Thursday: "Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found."

(Mr. Prezio attends Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet.)

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