Tonight we will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus gave us two commandments on the night was handed over to suffering and death: to celebrate the Eucharist in community and to love one another with acts of humble service. Tonight’s celebration calls me to receive.
I am invited to reflect on and receive, again, the Body and Blood of Christ. I did nothing to earn this gift. I am not invited to communion because I am somehow worthy or because I’ve made it on some special list of believers. I am called to the table to partake in the Eucharist because on the night he was handed over, this is what my Lord and Savior did: he took bread, blessed it , broke it and said, “This is my body which is given for you…” Next, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, blessed it, gave it to his disciples and said, “Drink this all of you. This is the cup of my blood of the new and everlasting covenant. Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus did this for me, for you. Think about all of the times, circumstances and life events during which you’ve been summoned to the table of the Lord. Weddings, funerals, baptisms, confirmations, ordination celebrations, Sunday upon Sunday… and the list could go on. From the beginning of Christianity, this is what we have done as members of the Body of Christ. It is a sacred, holy and wonderful gift. We recall that gift tonight with particular thanks and adoration.
Next I am called to receive, in humility, while another washes my feet. I have always found it much easier to be the foot wash-er as opposed to being the foot wash-ee. That is, I like to be the one giving, serving, doing. It is more comfortable for me to be in that mode as opposed to be the one receiving the outreach, care or helpful actions of another. I think this is because as long as I am the one doing the serving, I am also the one who has more control and power during the interaction. I am not proud of this, but there it is. I suspect that I am not alone. Feet are pretty personal parts of our bodies – not a part we customarily keep out in the open, at least in our culture. Our feet are hard workers, and sometimes they show it. Jesus, in washing the feet of his disciples and commanding us to do the same, reminds us that to follow Him, we are called to love and serve each other with humility. And he tells us that we must allow ourselves to be loved and served by others. This is not a one-way transaction! Peter tries hard to get Jesus to skip him (“Lord, are you going to wash my feet? You will never wash my feet!”) but Jesus lays it out pretty clearly: “Unless I wash you, you will have no part of me.” In other words, unless we allow ourselves to be loved, served and cared for by others, we will not understand the terrible and wonderful vulnerability of putting ourselves in the care and need of another. This is one of the most powerful signs of the kingdom of God – serving and being served by one another in a spirit of humility and love. It has to go both ways.