This Holy Thursday is different. In a normal setting, I would be looking out among the faithful gathered to commemorate the Last Supper– the evening when gathered with His apostles, the first priests, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as food for our souls. But this Holy Thursday is different. There are only a few of us here – the essential “staff” to make this Mass come to your homes and those needed to assist in the liturgy itself. It almost seems like the night of the Last Supper when Jesus was alone in the upper room with His closest followers while outside, the rest of world had no idea what was happening. Gathered around the table, the Apostles must have been asking – what is He doing? Maybe we are asking the same thing as we watch from home – what is the Lord doing now, in this time of uncertainty?
I can’t help but think about what the Eucharist means to us now, in this climate. The term itself means “thanksgiving” and there are three things we must remember: the Eucharist is a Presence – God’s presence among us, really and truly because He said so: this is my body, this is my blood … The Eucharist is a sacrifice – it is THE sacrifice of Christ on altar of the Cross. The Last Supper and the Crucifixion are one continuous liturgical action. He begins with a meal, making bread His body, wine His blood and then fulfills the words “this is my body, this is my blood GIVEN UP FOR YOU” when we mounted the wood of the cross. This sacrifice and this meal are intimately bound together … The Eucharist is food. Food for the soul. Food for the journey. We are nourished at this sacred banquet with God’s presence, with His sacrifice, with HIMSELF … this is our God present among us this day. This is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ celebrated, in an unbloody manner now, for the salvation of the whole world – for every single soul that walks this earth – and has ever walked this earth. This is not a symbol, it is not an illusion, it is not something made up by the Church … This is Our God – really and truly present among us. It is His sacrifice that has the power to save our souls. This is our glimpse of eternity, of the at heavenly banquet. It is the closest we can be to Him, this side of heaven and He aids us in our journey to Him by giving us Himself.
Where are the hungry souls today? Where is the flock for which I am supposed to shepherd and feed? They are not here. The church is empty. But that does not mean that our God is not here. I often encourage folks to pray at home, to find a place in the house that can be destined for sacred purpose – “a prayer corner” – and this is good, and should be done. But it is not the same as the Divine Presence that is here in this church. Do you miss Him? I certainly miss you!
Where are you? I know you are not here, but where are you? Where is your heart, your faith? Do you miss this? I don’t just mean the community and our shared joy when we gather … I mean Him. In the Eucharist … do you miss receiving Him? What has that meant to you up to this point. You see, I think so often we want Jesus, we need Holy Communion, but only on our terms. We want Him but do not want to acknowledge that we have been coasting up to this point. So many of us come to Holy Communion without having confessed our sins in many years. What does that say about our inner disposition of heart, mind and soul? What message does that send to our God who is truly among us in this sacrament? But then, in an instant, the privilege of receiving Him was taken away. What now? Do you miss Him? Will this change your perspective on just WHO it is that we receive in Holy Communion? Will you think seriously about confession, the state of your soul and the power of God’s grace in the sacraments? Will you tear down the walls built around your heart, remove the obstacles that stand in the way of grace … sweep clean the interior of your soul in order to make room for God to enter? What will you do when this has passed?
Indeed, this Holy Thursday is different. It feels empty. It is not the normal setting that we had grown accustomed to … do you miss it? There is one thing I know for sure, that while you may not be present here, in this church – the place of God’s presence in our world, in our lives – God is still here. He still looks for us and for our faith. He looks for us to say with confidence – yes, Lord, I believe that you are present among us and I will not turn my back on you now … I will remain faithful.