By: Father Jim Valk CR, posted: 2014-04-14

I was resting on a park bench one noon hour when a “bag” lady sat down on the other end. I paid little attention to her until she saw me take out my lunch. Are you going to have lunch, she asked. Of course I was but was she going to ask me for mine! She suggested that we trade lunches. Oh no! But my pride got in my way and I said yes. Chicken salad for a mystery sandwich. It came from a greasy bag and it was readily traded. She asked if I wanted to see what it was. I don’t like surprises so I delicately opened it and I ate it, knowing that this was not a good idea. Today I have no idea what it was. But I got my comeuppance! She reached over, kissed my cheek and said this was the first time in years that she had lunch with someone. Thank you. Was I embarrassed? Oh yes, a bag lady taught me to see beyond the appearances, to “feed” or nourish another person. Who really received the gift?

Jesus gives us the example. He leaves us with the gift of himself. He is not indifferent to our needs, Holy Thursday Jesus gives us an example of SERVICE. He washes the feet of his disciples (bagmen?) When your feet hurt your whole body hurts.  Often on this night we wash each others’ hands, a sign of service to each other, a moment to remember whom we reach out to. Jesus’ gift helps us to walk again with one another. There is no rejection, no quitting. There is enough for all. Imagine, Jesus uses bread, the common bread, and wine, the cheapest drink- all can receive, not just some of us. Who today needs my service?  How do we nourish each other?

Holy Thursday calls us to be FAITHFUL. Jesus does not give up on us, does not abandon us when things get tough. Love one another as I have loved you. I have often seen the “washing of feet”. The man or woman who care for a family member who has Alzheimer’s disease. The Archbishop standing in the cold providing for those who come for a bowl of soup, a sandwich. The Mother who gets up in the middle of the night to take care of a baby. The experiences abound. Do I follow suit? So many moments to follow Christ, to be a mirror of his love for others. So much washing takes place outside the Church and in the streets and centers where people gather at supermarkets, malls, assembly lines, retirement homes. Whose feet will I wash today so we can journey together?

Holy Thursday calls us to be COMPASSIONATE. To love is to give; to love perfectly is to give until nothing is left. Many will not remember our words, but all will remember how you made us feel. Jesus knows our hungers, our hurts, our joys. He touches the poor, heals them, forgives them. We are God’s passion, God’s dream. The glory of God is a man, a man fully alive. Jesus gives us the gift of life. Do this, he says, in memory of me.

Holy Thursday calls us to be GENEROUS. Jesus gave himself whole heartedly, no half way measures. Jesus came not to be served but to serve. Jesus is the mirror of who we can be. Does the image I see in the mirror reflect the one who I follow? Do others see a love without conditions in me? Some people are saturated with a mild form of Christianity- they are immune to the real thing.

In the Eucharist we become the message. St. Augustine says receive who you are. Live out the gift of Christ’s presence. We are given the “mandate” to carry on Christ’s message. We come here to receive God’s service so that we might serve others better. Do as I do for you, says Jesus. The gift of Jesus makes us companions of one another: from the Latin word “com” and “pane” which means “to eat together.”  The Eucharist makes it possible to serve one another. We are given hands and feet to build, to bless, to give, to receive. The living, loving presence of God is here.