Holy Thursday at Mississippi Abbey
I am a cradle Catholic who went to Catholic grade schools in the 50’s, taught by the BVM’s. In the early 60’s I attended my first two year of high school at Des Moines Dowling. I finished at the Passionist Prep Seminary in Missouri. So, like most of us, I have grown up with the mystery of the Eucharist.
The word “Mystery” is used of something that has meaning. The meaning is hidden in symbols and gestures and so does not reveal itself easily. But a mystery is not for concealing; it is for revealing because what it reveals is pervasive, enduring, and deep. It is worth the effort to understand it.
As we know, if something is important, it must be because it makes a difference in one’s life. During my college years in Iowa City in the late 60’s and early 70’s I wandered away from the church, the Christian way of life and its fellowship. I didn’t receive the Eucharist for about 25-30 years. And since the Eucharist is a sacrament of Unity, I didn’t participate in that fellowship for that time. It made a difference. But the problem then was not that I did things that I would not do today. The problem was that I set my heart on things that come-and-go (and I never knew where they went!). I guided myself by a secular sense of importance, rather than Christian values. The secular sense was entertaining, but gave no power to become a deliberate person. During all that time there was an emptiness I felt that was a mystery to me. Now I realize it was a depth waiting to be filled.
In 1993 I came back to the Eucharist and the unity of Christian fellowship and Values. The depth was filled. It made a difference. The difference the Eucharist and fellowship makes is a twofold difference. It is a difference of relationship and, growing out of that, a difference in the power to be the deliberate person that the empty depth was always calling me to be.
The relationship is with Jesus Christ and through Him to His Father. The relationship is lived in unity with members of the Body of Christ. The relationship is that of an adopted child. It is one of admiration. What is it like?
Our gospel tells us what the effect of the Eucharist is really like. It is unity. Eucharist must unite us to God and each other. A community that unites “over against” one of its own is not God’s community.
The well-chosen gospel for this evening tells us that the relationship of unity is one of humility shown in service and in empathy for the victim. God’s community must see that Jesus “is among you as one who serves. It is you who have stood by me in my trials.” In the wake of the self-centeredness of Original Sin and having been formed by a secular “culture of cool”, one needs a power to shed those. That power comes from the Eucharist. There we get the mind of Christ, the innocent victim.
There is no other god but the One “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” Unity in distress is God’s unity. The kingdom of God is promised to those who have empathy for the victim.
The Ukrainians are a good example of the solidarity of the oppressed. It is a change in perception and understanding of what matters most. It changes how one interprets herself. Receiving the One who is “meek and humble of heart” gives a new and truer meaning to being “only human.”
Jesus Christ, received in the Eucharist, is the key symbol through which Christians understand what is going on. It is truly amazing how that change in one’s interior life comes about. And when one notices it and consents to it, one receives the power to live deliberately, to live from that center, to live from that depth.
We identify with Christ; we understand what’s going on as He does. We are in Him and He is in us. We co-inhere, i.e., we mutually indwell. That means we come to value everything else the way He values it. That is a very deep and pervasive change.
We seek a community that shares that way of deep valuing. With them we stand face-to-face with the truth that will triumph over our interior foe of self-centeredness. We find in our adversities a hidden justice which regulates our lives toward usefulness to God and neighbor…and toward eternal life. All that remains for us is to “love one another as I have loved you.”